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Full text of "Ancient Classic Texts before 400 B.C."

360 BC 
TIMAEUS 
by Plato 
translated by Benjamin Jowett 
TIMAEUS 

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: SOCRATES; CRITIAS; TIMAEUS; HERMOCRATES 

Socrates. One, two, three; but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth 
of those who were yesterday my guests and are to be my entertainers 
to-day? 

Timaeus. He has been taken ill, Socrates; for he would not willingly 
have been absent from this gathering. 

Soc. Then, if he is not coming, you and the two others must supply 
his place. 

Tim. Certainly, and we will do all that we can; having been 
handsomely entertained by you yesterday, those of us who remain should 
be only too glad to return your hospitality. 

Soc. Do you remember what were the points of which I required you to 
speak? 

Tim. We remember some of them, and you will be here to remind us 
of anything which we have forgotten: or rather, if we are not 
troubling you, will you briefly recapitulate the whole, and then the 
particulars will be more firmly fixed in our memories? 

Soc. To be sure I will: the chief theme of my yesterday's 
discourse was the State-how constituted and of what citizens 
composed it would seem likely to be most perfect. 

Tim. Yes, Socrates; and what you said of it was very much to our 
mind. 

Soc. Did we not begin by separating the husbandmen and the 
artisans from the class of defenders of the State? 

Tim. Yes. 

Soc. And when we had given to each one that single employment and 
particular art which was suited to his nature, we spoke of those who 
were intended to be our warriors, and said that they were to be 
guardians of the city against attacks from within as well as from 
without, and to have no other employment; they were to be merciful 
in judging their subjects, of whom they were by nature friends, but 
fierce to their enemies, when they came across them in battle. 

Tim. Exactly. 

Soc. We said, if I am not mistaken, that the guardians should be 
gifted with a temperament in a high degree both passionate and 
philosophical; and that then they would be as they ought to be, gentle 
to their friends and fierce with their enemies. 

Tim. Certainly. 

Soc. And what did we say of their education? Were they not to be 
trained in gymnastic, and music, and all other sorts of knowledge 
which were proper for them? 

Tim. Very true. 

Soc. And being thus trained they were not to consider gold or silver 
or anything else to be their own private property; they were to be 
like hired troops, receiving pay for keeping guard from those who were 
protected by them-the pay was to be no more than would suffice for men 
of simple life; and they were to spend in common, and to live together 
in the continual practice of virtue, which was to be their sole 
pursuit . 

Tim. That was also said. 

Soc. Neither did we forget the women; of whom we declared, that 
their natures should be assimilated and brought into harmony with 
those of the men, and that common pursuits should be assigned to 
them both in time of war and in their ordinary life. 

Tim. That, again, was as you say. 

Soc. And what about the procreation of children? Or rather not the 
proposal too singular to be forgotten? for all wives and children were 



to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own 
child, but they were to imagine that they were all one family; those 
who were within a suitable limit of age were to be brothers and 
sisters, those who were of an elder generation parents and 
grandparents, and those of a younger children and grandchildren. 

Tim. Yes, and the proposal is easy to remember, as you say. 

Soc. And do you also remember how, with a view of securing as far as 
we could the best breed, we said that the chief magistrates, male 
and female, should contrive secretly, by the use of certain lots, so 
to arrange the nuptial meeting, that the bad of either sex and the 
good of either sex might pair with their like; and there was to be 
no quarrelling on this account, for they would imagine that the 
union was a mere accident, and was to be attributed to the lot? 

Tim. I remember. 

Soc. And you remember how we said that the children of the good 
parents were to be educated, and the children of the bad secretly 
dispersed among the inferior citizens; and while they were all growing 
up the rulers were to be on the look-out, and to bring up from below 
in their turn those who were worthy, and those among themselves who 
were unworthy were to take the places of those who came up? 

Tim. True. 

Soc. Then have I now given you all the heads of our yesterday's 
discussion? Or is there anything more, my dear Timaeus, which has been 
omitted? 

Tim. Nothing, Socrates; it was just as you have said. 

Soc. I should like, before proceeding further, to tell you how I 
feel about the State which we have described. I might compare myself 
to a person who, on beholding beautiful animals either created by 
the painter's art, or, better still, alive but at rest, is seized with 
a desire of seeing them in motion or engaged in some struggle or 
conflict to which their forms appear suited; this is my feeling 
about the State which we have been describing. There are conflicts 
which all cities undergo, and I should like to hear some one tell of 
our own city carrying on a struggle against her neighbours, and how 
she went out to war in a becoming manner, and when at war showed by 
the greatness of her actions and the magnanimity of her words in 
dealing with other cities a result worthy of her training and 
education. Now I, Critias and Hermocrates, am conscious that I 
myself should never be able to celebrate the city and her citizens 
in a befitting manner, and I am not surprised at my own incapacity; to 
me the wonder is rather that the poets present as well as past are 
no better-not that I mean to depreciate them; but every one can see 
that they are a tribe of imitators, and will imitate best and most 
easily the life in which they have been brought up; while that which 
is beyond the range of a man's education he finds hard to carry out in 
action, and still harder adequately to represent in language. I am 
aware that the Sophists have plenty of brave words and fair 
conceits, but I am afraid that being only wanderers from one city to 
another, and having never had habitations of their own, they may 
fail in their conception of philosophers and statesmen, and may not 
know what they do and say in time of war, when they are fighting or 
holding parley with their enemies. And thus people of your class are 
the only ones remaining who are fitted by nature and education to take 
part at once both in politics and philosophy. Here is Timaeus, of 
Locris in Italy, a city which has admirable laws, and who is himself 
in wealth and rank the equal of any of his fellow-citizens; he has 
held the most important and honourable offices in his own state, 
and, as I believe, has scaled the heights of all philosophy; and 
here is Critias, whom every Athenian knows to be no novice in the 
matters of which we are speaking; and as to, Hermocrates, I am assured 
by many witnesses that his genius and education qualify him to take 
part in any speculation of the kind. And therefore yesterday when I 
saw that you wanted me to describe the formation of the State, I 
readily assented, being very well aware, that, if you only would, none 



were better qualified to carry the discussion further, and that when 
you had engaged our city in a suitable war, you of all men living 
could best exhibit her playing a fitting part. When I had completed my 
task, I in return imposed this other task upon you. You conferred 
together and agreed to entertain me to-day, as I had entertained 
you, with a feast of discourse. Here am I in festive array, and no man 
can be more ready for the promised banquet. 

Her. And we too, Socrates, as Timaeus says, will not be wanting in 
enthusiasm; and there is no excuse for not complying with your 
request. As soon as we arrived yesterday at the guest-chamber of 
Critias, with whom we are staying, or rather on our way thither, we 
talked the matter over, and he told us an ancient tradition, which I 
wish, Critias, that you would repeat to Socrates, so that he may 
help us to judge whether it will satisfy his requirements or not. 

Crit. I will, if Timaeus, who is our other partner, approves. 

Tim. I quite approve. 

Crit. Then listen, Socrates, to a tale which, though strange, is 
certainly true, having been attested by Solon, who was the wisest of 
the seven sages. He was a relative and a dear friend of my 
great-grandfather, Dropides, as he himself says in many passages of 
his poems; and he told the story to Critias, my grandfather, who 
remembered and repeated it to us. There were of old, he said, great 
and marvellous actions of the Athenian city, which have passed into 
oblivion through lapse of time and the destruction of mankind, and one 
in particular, greater than all the rest. This we will now rehearse. 
It will be a fitting monument of our gratitude to you, and a hymn of 
praise true and worthy of the goddess, on this her day of festival. 

Soc. Very good. And what is this ancient famous action of the 
Athenians, which Critias declared, on the authority of Solon, to be 
not a mere legend, but an actual fact? 

Crit. I will tell an old-world story which I heard from an aged man; 
for Critias, at the time of telling it, was as he said, nearly 
ninety years of age, and I was about ten. Now the day was that day 
of the Apaturia which is called the Registration of Youth, at which, 
according to custom, our parents gave prizes for recitations, and 
the poems of several poets were recited by us boys, and many of us 
sang the poems of Solon, which at that time had not gone out of 
fashion. One of our tribe, either because he thought so or to please 
Critias, said that in his judgment Solon was not only the wisest of 
men, but also the noblest of poets. The old man, as I very well 
remember, brightened up at hearing this and said, smiling: Yes, 
Amynander, if Solon had only, like other poets, made poetry the 
business of his life, and had completed the tale which he brought with 
him from Egypt, and had not been compelled, by reason of the 
factions and troubles which he found stirring in his own country 
when he came home, to attend to other matters, in my opinion he 
would have been as famous as Homer or Hesiod, or any poet. 

And what was the tale about, Critias? said Amynander. 

About the greatest action which the Athenians ever did, and which 
ought to have been the most famous, but, through the lapse of time and 
the destruction of the actors, it has not come down to us. 

Tell us, said the other, the whole story, and how and from whom 
Solon heard this veritable tradition. 

He replied: -In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river 
Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district 
of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and 
is the city from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for 
their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is 
asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they 
are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way 
related to them. To this city came Solon, and was received there 
with great honour; he asked the priests who were most skilful in 
such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither 
he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the 



times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of 
antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our 
part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called "the first man," 
and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion 
and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and 
reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events 
of which he was speaking happened. Thereupon one of the priests, who 
was of a very great age, said: Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are 
never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you. 
Solon in return asked him what he meant. I mean to say, he replied, 
that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down 
among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with 
age. And I will tell you why. There have been, and will be again, many 
destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest 
have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other 
lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which 
even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of 
Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he 
was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all 
that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. 
Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of 
the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great 
conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long 
intervals; at such times those who live upon the mountains and in 
dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who 
dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity the Nile, 
who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us. When, 
on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, 
the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell 
on the mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are 
carried by the rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then 
nor at any other time, does the water come down from above on the 
fields, having always a tendency to come up from below; for which 
reason the traditions preserved here are the most ancient. 

The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of 
summer does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, 
sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your 
country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed-if 
there were any actions noble or great or in any other way 
remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are 
preserved in our temples. Whereas just when you and other nations 
are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites 
of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, 
like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you 
who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin 
all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in 
ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those 
genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they 
are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you 
remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in 
the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land 
the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and 
your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them 
which survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many 
generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no 
written word. For there was a time, Solon, before the great deluge 
of all, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in 
every way the best governed of all cities, is said to have performed 
the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest constitution of any of 
which tradition tells, under the face of heaven. 

Solon marvelled at his words, and earnestly requested the priests to 
inform him exactly and in order about these former citizens. You are 
welcome to hear about them, Solon, said the priest, both for your 
own sake and for that of your city, and above all, for the sake of the 



goddess who is the common patron and parent and educator of both our 
cities. She founded your city a thousand years before ours, 
receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race, and 
afterwards she founded ours, of which the constitution is recorded 
in our sacred registers to be eight thousand years old. As touching 
your citizens of nine thousand years ago, I will briefly inform you of 
their laws and of their most famous action; the exact particulars of 
the whole we will hereafter go through at our leisure in the sacred 
registers themselves. If you compare these very laws with ours you 
will find that many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they 
were in the olden time. In the first place, there is the caste of 
priests, which is separated from all the others; next, there are the 
artificers, who ply their several crafts by themselves and do not 
intermix; and also there is the class of shepherds and of hunters, 
as well as that of husbandmen; and you will observe, too, that the 
warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other classes, and are 
commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to military pursuits; 
moreover, the weapons which they carry are shields and spears, a style 
of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to us, as in 
your part of the world first to you. Then as to wisdom, do you observe 
how our law from the very first made a study of the whole order of 
things, extending even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, 
out of these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, 
and adding every sort of knowledge which was akin to them. All this 
order and arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when 
establishing your city; and she chose the spot of earth in which you 
were born, because she saw that the happy temperament of the seasons 
in that land would produce the wisest of men. Wherefore the goddess, 
who was a lover both of war and of wisdom, selected and first of all 
settled that spot which was the most likely to produce men likest 
herself. And there you dwelt, having such laws as these and still 
better ones, and excelled all mankind in all virtue, as became the 
children and disciples of the gods. 

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our 
histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and 
valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked 
made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to 
which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the 
Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and 
there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by 
you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya 
and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from 
these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which 
surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of 
Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other 
is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a 
boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a 
great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and 
several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the 
men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of 
Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast 
power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our 
country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; 
and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her 
virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage 
and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the 
rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having 
undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed 
over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet 
subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell 
within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent 
earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune 
all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island 
of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For 



which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, 
because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the 
subsidence of the island. 

I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard 
from Solon and related to us . And when you were speaking yesterday 
about your city and citizens, the tale which I have just been 
repeating to you came into my mind, and I remarked with astonishment 
how, by some mysterious coincidence, you agreed in almost every 
particular with the narrative of Solon; but I did not like to speak at 
the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I had forgotten too much; 
I thought that I must first of all run over the narrative in my own 
mind, and then I would speak. And so I readily assented to your 
request yesterday, considering that in all such cases the chief 
difficulty is to find a tale suitable to our purpose, and that with 
such a tale we should be fairly well provided. 

And therefore, as Hermocrates has told you, on my way home yesterday 
I at once communicated the tale to my companions as I remembered it; 
and after I left them, during the night by thinking I recovered nearly 
the whole it. Truly, as is often said, the lessons of our childhood 
make wonderful impression on our memories; for I am not sure that I 
could remember all the discourse of yesterday, but I should be much 
surprised if I forgot any of these things which I have heard very long 
ago. I listened at the time with childlike interest to the old man's 
narrative; he was very ready to teach me, and I asked him again and 
again to repeat his words, so that like an indelible picture they were 
branded into my mind. As soon as the day broke, I rehearsed them as he 
spoke them to my companions, that they, as well as myself, might 
have something to say. And now, Socrates, to make an end my preface, I 
am ready to tell you the whole tale. I will give you not only the 
general heads, but the particulars, as they were told to me. The 
city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, 
we will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the 
ancient city of Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you 
imagined, were our veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they 
will perfectly harmonise, and there will be no inconsistency in saying 
that the citizens of your republic are these ancient Athenians. Let us 
divide the subject among us, and all endeavour according to our 
ability gracefully to execute the task which you have imposed upon us. 
Consider then, Socrates, if this narrative is suited to the purpose, 
or whether we should seek for some other instead. 

Soc. And what other, Critias, can we find that will be better than 
this, which is natural and suitable to the festival of the goddess, 
and has the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction? 
How or where shall we find another if we abandon this? We cannot, 
and therefore you must tell the tale, and good luck to you; and I in 
return for my yesterday's discourse will now rest and be a listener. 

Crit. Let me proceed to explain to you, Socrates, the order in which 
we have arranged our entertainment. Our intention is, that Timaeus, 
who is the most of an astronomer amongst us, and has made the nature 
of the universe his special study, should speak first, beginning 
with the generation of the world and going down to the creation of 
man; next, I am to receive the men whom he has created of whom some 
will have profited by the excellent education which you have given 
them; and then, in accordance with the tale of Solon, and equally with 
his law, we will bring them into court and make them citizens, as if 
they were those very Athenians whom the sacred Egyptian record has 
recovered from oblivion, and thenceforward we will speak of them as 
Athenians and fellow-citizens. 

Soc. I see that I shall receive in my turn a perfect and splendid 
feast of reason. And now, Timaeus, you, I suppose, should speak 
next, after duly calling upon the Gods. 

Tim. All men, Socrates, who have any degree of right feeling, at the 
beginning of every enterprise, whether small or great, always call 
upon God. And we, too, who are going to discourse of the nature of the 



universe, how created or how existing without creation, if we be not 
altogether out of our wits, must invoke the aid of Gods and 
Goddesses and pray that our words may be acceptable to them and 
consistent with themselves. Let this, then, be our invocation of the 
Gods, to which I add an exhortation of myself to speak in such 
manner as will be most intelligible to you, and will most accord 
with my own intent. 

First then, in my judgment, we must make a distinction and ask, What 
is that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is 
always becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by 
intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is 
conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is 
always in a process of becoming and perishing and never really is. Now 
everything that becomes or is created must of necessity be created 
by some cause, for without a cause nothing can be created. The work of 
the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the 
form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must 
necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when he looks to the created 
only, and uses a created pattern, it is not fair or perfect. Was the 
heaven then or the world, whether called by this or by any other 
more appropriate name-assuming the name, I am asking a question 
which has to be asked at the beginning of an enquiry about 
anything-was the world, I say, always in existence and without 
beginning? or created, and had it a beginning? Created, I reply, being 
visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and 
all sensible things are apprehended by opinion and sense and are in 
a process of creation and created. Now that which is created must, 
as we affirm, of necessity be created by a cause. But the father and 
maker of all this universe is past finding out; and even if we found 
him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible. And there is still 
a question to be asked about him: Which of the patterns had the 
artificer in view when he made the world-the pattern of the 
unchangeable, or of that which is created? If the world be indeed fair 
and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to 
that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is 
true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must 
have looked to, the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations 
and he is the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the 
world has been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended 
by reason and mind and is unchangeable, and must therefore of 
necessity, if this is admitted, be a copy of something. Now it is 
all-important that the beginning of everything should be according 
to nature. And in speaking of the copy and the original we may 
assume that words are akin to the matter which they describe; when 
they relate to the lasting and permanent and intelligible, they 
ought to be lasting and unalterable, and, as far as their nature 
allows, irrefutable and immovable-nothing less. But when they 
express only the copy or likeness and not the eternal things 
themselves, they need only be likely and analogous to the real 
words. As being is to becoming, so is truth to belief. If then, 
Socrates, amid the many opinions about the gods and the generation 
of the universe, we are not able to give notions which are 
altogether and in every respect exact and consistent with one another, 
do not be surprised. Enough, if we adduce probabilities as likely as 
any others; for we must remember that I who am the speaker, and you 
who are the judges, are only mortal men, and we ought to accept the 
tale which is probable and enquire no further. 

Soc. Excellent, Timaeus; and we will do precisely as you bid us. The 
prelude is charming, and is already accepted by us-may we beg of you 
to proceed to the strain? 

Tim. Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of 
generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of 
anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things 
should be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest 



sense the origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well 
in believing on the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things 
should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. 
Wherefore also finding the whole visible sphere not at rest, but 
moving in an irregular and disorderly fashion, out of disorder he 
brought order, considering that this was in every way better than 
the other. Now the deeds of the best could never be or have been other 
than the fairest; and the creator, reflecting on the things which 
are by nature visible, found that no unintelligent creature taken as a 
whole was fairer than the intelligent taken as a whole; and that 
intelligence could not be present in anything which was devoid of 
soul. For which reason, when he was framing the universe, he put 
intelligence in soul, and soul in body, that he might be the creator 
of a work which was by nature fairest and best. Wherefore, using the 
language of probability, we may say that the world became a living 
creature truly endowed with soul and intelligence by the providence of 
God. 

This being supposed, let us proceed to the next stage: In the 
likeness of what animal did the Creator make the world? It would be an 
unworthy thing to liken it to any nature which exists as a part 
only; for nothing can be beautiful which is like any imperfect 
thing; but let us suppose the world to be the very image of that whole 
of which all other animals both individually and in their tribes are 
portions. For the original of the universe contains in itself all 
intelligible beings, just as this world comprehends us and all other 
visible creatures. For the Deity, intending to make this world like 
the fairest and most perfect of intelligible beings, framed one 
visible animal comprehending within itself all other animals of a 
kindred nature. Are we right in saying that there is one world, or 
that they are many and infinite? There must be one only, if the 
created copy is to accord with the original. For that which includes 
all other intelligible creatures cannot have a second or companion; in 
that case there would be need of another living being which would 
include both, and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would 
be more truly said to resemble not them, but that other which included 
them. In order then that the world might be solitary, like the perfect 
animal, the creator made not two worlds or an infinite number of them; 
but there is and ever will be one only-begotten and created heaven. 

Now that which is created is of necessity corporeal, and also 
visible and tangible. And nothing is visible where there is no fire, 
or tangible which has no solidity, and nothing is solid without earth. 
Wherefore also God in the beginning of creation made the body of the 
universe to consist of fire and earth. But two things cannot be 
rightly put together without a third; there must be some bond of union 
between them. And the fairest bond is that which makes the most 
complete fusion of itself and the things which it combines; and 
proportion is best adapted to effect such a union. For whenever in any 
three numbers, whether cube or square, there is a mean, which is to 
the last term what the first term is to it; and again, when the mean 
is to the first term as the last term is to the mean-then the mean 
becoming first and last, and the first and last both becoming means, 
they will all of them of necessity come to be the same, and having 
become the same with one another will be all one. If the universal 
frame had been created a surface only and having no depth, a single 
mean would have sufficed to bind together itself and the other 
terms; but now, as the world must be solid, and solid bodies are 
always compacted not by one mean but by two, God placed water and 
air in the mean between fire and earth, and made them to have the same 
proportion so far as was possible (as fire is to air so is air to 
water, and as air is to water so is water to earth) ; and thus he bound 
and put together a visible and tangible heaven. And for these reasons, 
and out of such elements which are in number four, the body of the 
world was created, and it was harmonised by proportion, and 
therefore has the spirit of friendship; and having been reconciled 



to itself, it was indissoluble by the hand of any other than the 
f ramer . 

Now the creation took up the whole of each of the four elements; for 
the Creator compounded the world out of all the fire and all the water 
and all the air and all the earth, leaving no part of any of them 
nor any power of them outside. His intention was, in the first 
place, that the animal should be as far as possible a perfect whole 
and of perfect parts: secondly, that it should be one, leaving no 
remnants out of which another such world might be created: and also 
that it should be free from old age and unaffected by disease. 
Considering that if heat and cold and other powerful forces which 
unite bodies surround and attack them from without when they are 
unprepared, they decompose them, and by bringing diseases and old 
age upon them, make them waste away-for this cause and on these 
grounds he made the world one whole, having every part entire, and 
being therefore perfect and not liable to old age and disease. And 
he gave to the world the figure which was suitable and also natural. 
Now to the animal which was to comprehend all animals, that figure was 
suitable which comprehends within itself all other figures. 
Wherefore he made the world in the form of a globe, round as from a 
lathe, having its extremes in every direction equidistant from the 
centre, the most perfect and the most like itself of all figures; 
for he considered that the like is infinitely fairer than the 
unlike. This he finished off, making the surface smooth all around for 
many reasons; in the first place, because the living being had no need 
of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor 
of ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no 
surrounding atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any 
use of organs by the help of which he might receive his food or get 
rid of what he had already digested, since there was nothing which 
went from him or came into him: for there was nothing beside him. Of 
design he was created thus, his own waste providing his own food, 
and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For 
the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would 
be far more excellent than one which lacked anything; and, as he had 
no need to take anything or defend himself against any one, the 
Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had 
he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the 
movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of 
all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; 
and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, 
within his own limits revolving in a circle. All the other six motions 
were taken away from him, and he was made not to partake of their 
deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the 
universe was created without legs and without feet. 

Such was the whole plan of the eternal God about the god that was to 
be, to whom for this reason he gave a body, smooth and even, having 
a surface in every direction equidistant from the centre, a body 
entire and perfect, and formed out of perfect bodies. And in the 
centre he put the soul, which he diffused throughout the body, 
making it also to be the exterior environment of it; and he made the 
universe a circle moving in a circle, one and solitary, yet by 
reason of its excellence able to converse with itself, and needing 
no other friendship or acquaintance. Having these purposes in view 
he created the world a blessed god. 

Now God did not make the soul after the body, although we are 
speaking of them in this order; for having brought them together he 
would never have allowed that the elder should be ruled by the 
younger; but this is a random manner of speaking which we have, 
because somehow we ourselves too are very much under the dominion of 
chance. Whereas he made the soul in origin and excellence prior to and 
older than the body, to be the ruler and mistress, of whom the body 
was to be the subject. And he made her out of the following elements 
and on this wise: Out of the indivisible and unchangeable, and also 



out of that which is divisible and has to do with material bodies, 
he compounded a third and intermediate kind of essence, partaking of 
the nature of the same and of the other, and this compound he placed 
accordingly in a mean between the indivisible, and the divisible and 
material. He took the three elements of the same, the other, and the 
essence, and mingled them into one form, compressing by force the 
reluctant and unsociable nature of the other into the same. When he 
had mingled them with the essence and out of three made one, he 
again divided this whole into as many portions as was fitting, each 
portion being a compound of the same, the other, and the essence. 
And he proceeded to divide after this manner : -First of all, he took 
away one part of the whole [1], and then he separated a second part 
which was double the first [2], and then he took away a third part 
which was half as much again as the second and three times as much 
as the first [3], and then he took a fourth part which was twice as 
much as the second [4], and a fifth part which was three times the 
third [9], and a sixth part which was eight times the first [8], and a 
seventh part which was twenty-seven times the first [27] . After this 
he filled up the double intervals [i.e. between 1, 2, 4, 8] and the 
triple [i.e. between 1, 3, 9, 27] cutting off yet other portions 
from the mixture and placing them in the intervals, so that in each 
interval there were two kinds of means, the one exceeding and exceeded 
by equal parts of its extremes [as for example 1, 4/3, 2, in which the 
mean 4/3 is one-third of 1 more than 1, and one-third of 2 less than 
2], the other being that kind of mean which exceeds and is exceeded by 
an equal number. Where there were intervals of 3/2 and of 4/3 and of 
9/8, made by the connecting terms in the former intervals, he filled 
up all the intervals of 4/3 with the interval of 9/8, leaving a 
fraction over; and the interval which this fraction expressed was in 
the ratio of 256 to 243. And thus the whole mixture out of which he 
cut these portions was all exhausted by him. This entire compound he 
divided lengthways into two parts, which he joined to one another at 
the centre like the letter X, and bent them into a circular form, 
connecting them with themselves and each other at the point opposite 
to their original meeting-point; and, comprehending them in a 
uniform revolution upon the same axis, he made the one the outer and 
the other the inner circle. Now the motion of the outer circle he 
called the motion of the same, and the motion of the inner circle 
the motion of the other or diverse. The motion of the same he 
carried round by the side to the right, and the motion of the 
diverse diagonally to the left. And he gave dominion to the motion 
of the same and like, for that he left single and undivided; but the 
inner motion he divided in six places and made seven unequal circles 
having their intervals in ratios of two-and three, three of each, 
and bade the orbits proceed in a direction opposite to one another; 
and three [Sun, Mercury, Venus] he made to move with equal 
swiftness, and the remaining four [Moon, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter] to 
move with unequal swiftness to the three and to one another, but in 
due proportion. 

Now when the Creator had framed the soul according to his will, he 
formed within her the corporeal universe, and brought the two 
together, and united them centre to centre. The soul, interfused 
everywhere from the centre to the circumference of heaven, of which 
also she is the external envelopment, herself turning in herself, 
began a divine beginning of never ceasing and rational life enduring 
throughout all time. The body of heaven is visible, but the soul is 
invisible, and partakes of reason and harmony, and being made by the 
best of intellectual and everlasting natures, is the best of things 
created. And because she is composed of the same and of the other 
and of the essence, these three, and is divided and united in due 
proportion, and in her revolutions returns upon herself, the soul, 
when touching anything which has essence, whether dispersed in parts 
or undivided, is stirred through all her powers, to declare the 
sameness or difference of that thing and some other; and to what 



individuals are related, and by what affected, and in what way and how 
and when, both in the world of generation and in the world of 
immutable being. And when reason, which works with equal truth, 
whether she be in the circle of the diverse or of the same-in 
voiceless silence holding her onward course in the sphere of the 
self-moved-when reason, I say, is hovering around the sensible world 
and when the circle of the diverse also moving truly imparts the 
intimations of sense to the whole soul, then arise opinions and 
beliefs sure and certain. But when reason is concerned with the 
rational, and the circle of the same moving smoothly declares it, then 
intelligence and knowledge are necessarily perfected. And if any one 
affirms that in which these two are found to be other than the soul, 
he will say the very opposite of the truth. 

When the father creator saw the creature which he had made moving 
and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in 
his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original; 
and as this was eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so 
far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, 
but to bestow this attribute in its fulness upon a creature was 
impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of 
eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image 
eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in 
unity; and this image we call time. For there were no days and 
nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he 
constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of 
time, and the past and future are created species of time, which we 
unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence; for we 
say that he "was," he "is," he "will be," but the truth is that "is" 
alone is properly attributed to him, and that "was" and "will be" only 
to be spoken of becoming in time, for they are motions, but that which 
is immovably the same cannot become older or younger by time, nor ever 
did or has become, or hereafter will be, older or younger, nor is 
subject at all to any of those states which affect moving and sensible 
things and of which generation is the cause. These are the forms of 
time, which imitates eternity and revolves according to a law of 
number. Moreover, when we say that what has become is become and 
what becomes is becoming, and that what will become is about to become 
and that the non-existent is non-existent-all these are inaccurate 
modes of expression. But perhaps this whole subject will be more 
suitably discussed on some other occasion. 

Time, then, and the heaven came into being at the same instant in 
order that, having been created together, if ever there was to be a 
dissolution of them, they might be dissolved together. It was framed 
after the pattern of the eternal nature, that it might resemble this 
as far as was possible; for the pattern exists from eternity, and 
the created heaven has been, and is, and will be, in all time. Such 
was the mind and thought of God in the creation of time. The sun and 
moon and five other stars, which are called the planets, were 
created by him in order to distinguish and preserve the numbers of 
time; and when he had made-their several bodies, he placed them in the 
orbits in which the circle of the other was revolving-in seven 
orbits seven stars. First, there was the moon in the orbit nearest the 
earth, and next the sun, in the second orbit above the earth; then 
came the morning star and the star sacred to Hermes, moving in 
orbits which have an equal swiftness with the sun, but in an 
opposite direction; and this is the reason why the sun and Hermes 
and Lucifer overtake and are overtaken by each other. To enumerate the 
places which he assigned to the other stars, and to give all the 
reasons why he assigned them, although a secondary matter, would 
give more trouble than the primary. These things at some future 
time, when we are at leisure, may have the consideration which they 
deserve, but not at present. 

Now, when all the stars which were necessary to the creation of time 
had attained a motion suitable to them, -and had become living 



creatures having bodies fastened by vital chains, and learnt their 
appointed task, moving in the motion of the diverse, which is 
diagonal, and passes through and is governed by the motion of the 
same, they revolved, some in a larger and some in a lesser orbit-those 
which had the lesser orbit revolving faster, and those which had the 
larger more slowly. Now by reason of the motion of the same, those 
which revolved fastest appeared to be overtaken by those which moved 
slower although they really overtook them; for the motion of the 
same made them all turn in a spiral, and, because some went one way 
and some another, that which receded most slowly from the sphere of 
the same, which was the swiftest, appeared to follow it most nearly. 
That there might be some visible measure of their relative swiftness 
and slowness as they proceeded in their eight courses, God lighted a 
fire, which we now call the sun, in the second from the earth of these 
orbits, that it might give light to the whole of heaven, and that 
the animals, as many as nature intended, might participate in 
number, learning arithmetic from the revolution of the same and the 
like. Thus then, and for this reason the night and the day were 
created, being the period of the one most intelligent revolution. 
And the month is accomplished when the moon has completed her orbit 
and overtaken the sun, and the year when the sun has completed his own 
orbit. Mankind, with hardly an exception, have not remarked the 
periods of the other stars, and they have no name for them, and do not 
measure them against one another by the help of number, and hence they 
can scarcely be said to know that their wanderings, being infinite 
in number and admirable for their variety, make up time. And yet there 
is no difficulty in seeing that the perfect number of time fulfils the 
perfect year when all the eight revolutions, having their relative 
degrees of swiftness, are accomplished together and attain their 
completion at the same time, measured by the rotation of the same 
and equally moving. After this manner, and for these reasons, came 
into being such of the stars as in their heavenly progress received 
reversals of motion, to the end that the created heaven might 
imitate the eternal nature, and be as like as possible to the 
perfect and intelligible animal. 

Thus far and until the birth of time the created universe was made 
in the likeness of the original, but inasmuch as all animals were 
not yet comprehended therein, it was still unlike. What remained, 
the creator then proceeded to fashion after the nature of the pattern. 
Now as in the ideal animal the mind perceives ideas or species of a 
certain nature and number, he thought that this created animal ought 
to have species of a like nature and number. There are four such; 
one of them is the heavenly race of the gods; another, the race of 
birds whose way is in the air; the third, the watery species; and 
the fourth, the pedestrian and land creatures. Of the heavenly and 
divine, he created the greater part out of fire, that they might be 
the brightest of all things and fairest to behold, and he fashioned 
them after the likeness of the universe in the figure of a circle, and 
made them follow the intelligent motion of the supreme, distributing 
them over the whole circumference of heaven, which was to be a true 
cosmos or glorious world spangled with them all over. And he gave to 
each of them two movements: the first, a movement on the same spot 
after the same manner, whereby they ever continue to think 
consistently the same thoughts about the same things; the second, a 
forward movement, in which they are controlled by the revolution of 
the same and the like; but by the other five motions they were 
unaffected, in order that each of them might attain the highest 
perfection. And for this reason the fixed stars were created, to be 
divine and eternal animals, ever-abiding and revolving after the 
same manner and on the same spot; and the other stars which reverse 
their motion and are subject to deviations of this kind, were 
created in the manner already described. The earth, which is our 
nurse, clinging around the pole which is extended through the 
universe, he framed to be the guardian and artificer of night and day, 



first and eldest of gods that are in the interior of heaven. Vain 
would be the attempt to tell all the figures of them circling as in 
dance, and their juxtapositions, and the return of them in their 
revolutions upon themselves, and their approximations, and to say 
which of these deities in their conjunctions meet, and which of them 
are in opposition, and in what order they get behind and before one 
another, and when they are severally eclipsed to our sight and again 
reappear, sending terrors and intimations of the future to those who 
cannot calculate their movements-to attempt to tell of all this 
without a visible representation of the heavenly system would be 
labour in vain. Enough on this head; and now let what we have said 
about the nature of the created and visible gods have an end. 

To know or tell the origin of the other divinities is beyond us, and 
we must accept the traditions of the men of old time who affirm 
themselves to be the offspring of the gods-that is what they say-and 
they must surely have known their own ancestors. How can we doubt 
the word of the children of the gods? Although they give no probable 
or certain proofs, still, as they declare that they are speaking of 
what took place in their own family, we must conform to custom and 
believe them. In this manner, then, according to them, the genealogy 
of these gods is to be received and set forth. 

Oceanus and Tethys were the children of Earth and Heaven, and from 
these sprang Phorcys and Cronos and Rhea, and all that generation; and 
from Cronos and Rhea sprang Zeus and Here, and all those who are 
said to be their brethren, and others who were the children of these. 

Now, when all of them, both those who visibly appear in their 
revolutions as well as those other gods who are of a more retiring 
nature, had come into being, the creator of the universe addressed 
them in these words: "Gods, children of gods, who are my works, and of 
whom I am the artificer and father, my creations are indissoluble, 
if so I will. All that is bound may be undone, but only an evil 
being would wish to undo that which is harmonious and happy. 
Wherefore, since ye are but creatures, ye are not altogether 
immortal and indissoluble, but ye shall certainly not be dissolved, 
nor be liable to the fate of death, having in my will a greater and 
mightier bond than those with which ye were bound at the time of 
your birth. And now listen to my instructions : -Three tribes of 
mortal beings remain to be created-without them the universe will be 
incomplete, for it will not contain every kind of animal which it 
ought to contain, if it is to be perfect. On the other hand, if they 
were created by me and received life at my hands, they would be on 
an equality with the gods. In order then that they may be mortal, 
and that this universe may be truly universal, do ye, according to 
your natures, betake yourselves to the formation of animals, imitating 
the power which was shown by me in creating you. The part of them 
worthy of the name immortal, which is called divine and is the guiding 
principle of those who are willing to follow justice and you-of that 
divine part I will myself sow the seed, and having made a beginning, I 
will hand the work over to you. And do ye then interweave the mortal 
with the immortal, and make and beget living creatures, and give 
them food, and make them to grow, and receive them again in death." 

Thus he spake, and once more into the cup in which he had previously 
mingled the soul of the universe he poured the remains of the 
elements, and mingled them in much the same manner; they were not, 
however, pure as before, but diluted to the second and third degree. 
And having made it he divided the whole mixture into souls equal in 
number to the stars, and assigned each soul to a star; and having 
there placed them as in a chariot, he showed them the nature of the 
universe, and declared to them the laws of destiny, according to which 
their first birth would be one and the same for all, -no one should 
suffer a disadvantage at his hands; they were to be sown in the 
instruments of time severally adapted to them, and to come forth the 
most religious of animals; and as human nature was of two kinds, the 
superior race would here after be called man. Now, when they should be 



implanted in bodies by necessity, and be always gaining or losing some 
part of their bodily substance, then in the first place it would be 
necessary that they should all have in them one and the same faculty 
of sensation, arising out of irresistible impressions; in the second 
place, they must have love, in which pleasure and pain mingle; also 
fear and anger, and the feelings which are akin or opposite to them; 
if they conquered these they would live righteously, and if they 
were conquered by them, unrighteously. He who lived well during his 
appointed time was to return and dwell in his native star, and there 
he would have a blessed and congenial existence. But if he failed in 
attaining this, at the second birth he would pass into a woman, and 
if, when in that state of being, he did not desist from evil, he would 
continually be changed into some brute who resembled him in the evil 
nature which he had acquired, and would not cease from his toils and 
transformations until he followed the revolution of the same and the 
like within him, and overcame by the help of reason the turbulent 
and irrational mob of later accretions, made up of fire and air and 
water and earth, and returned to the form of his first and better 
state. Having given all these laws to his creatures, that he might 
be guiltless of future evil in any of them, the creator sowed some 
of them in the earth, and some in the moon, and some in the other 
instruments of time; and when he had sown them he committed to the 
younger gods the fashioning of their mortal bodies, and desired them 
to furnish what was still lacking to the human soul, and having made 
all the suitable additions, to rule over them, and to pilot the mortal 
animal in the best and wisest manner which they could, and avert 
from him all but self-inflicted evils. 

When the creator had made all these ordinances he remained in his 
own accustomed nature, and his children heard and were obedient to 
their father's word, and receiving from him the immortal principle 
of a mortal creature, in imitation of their own creator they 
borrowed portions of fire, and earth, and water, and air from the 
world, which were hereafter to be restored-these they took and 
welded them together, not with the indissoluble chains by which they 
were themselves bound, but with little pegs too small to be visible, 
making up out of all the four elements each separate body, and 
fastening the courses of the immortal soul in a body which was in a 
state of perpetual influx and efflux. Now these courses, detained as 
in a vast river, neither overcame nor were overcome; but were hurrying 
and hurried to and fro, so that the whole animal was moved and 
progressed, irregularly however and irrationally and anyhow, in all 
the six directions of motion, wandering backwards and forwards, and 
right and left, and up and down, and in all the six directions. For 
great as was the advancing and retiring flood which provided 
nourishment, the affections produced by external contact caused 
still greater tumult-when the body of any one met and came into 
collision with some external fire, or with the solid earth or the 
gliding waters, or was caught in the tempest borne on the air, and the 
motions produced by any of these impulses were carried through the 
body to the soul. All such motions have consequently received the 
general name of "sensations," which they still retain. And they did in 
fact at that time create a very great and mighty movement; uniting 
with the ever flowing stream in stirring up and violently shaking 
the courses of the soul, they completely stopped the revolution of the 
same by their opposing current, and hindered it from predominating and 
advancing; and they so disturbed the nature of the other or diverse, 
that the three double intervals [i.e. between 1, 2, 4, 8], and the 
three triple intervals [i.e. between 1, 3, 9, 27], together with the 
mean terms and connecting links which are expressed by the ratios of 3 
: 2, and 4 : 3, and of 9 : 8-these, although they cannot be wholly 
undone except by him who united them, were twisted by them in all 
sorts of ways, and the circles were broken and disordered in every 
possible manner, so that when they moved they were tumbling to pieces, 
and moved irrationally, at one time in a reverse direction, and then 



again obliquely, and then upside down, as you might imagine a person 
who is upside down and has his head leaning upon the ground and his 
feet up against something in the air; and when he is in such a 
position, both he and the spectator fancy that the right of either 
is his left, and left right. If, when powerfully experiencing these 
and similar effects, the revolutions of the soul come in contact 
with some external thing, either of the class of the same or of the 
other, they speak of the same or of the other in a manner the very 
opposite of the truth; and they become false and foolish, and there is 
no course or revolution in them which has a guiding or directing 
power; and if again any sensations enter in violently from without and 
drag after them the whole vessel of the soul, then the courses of 
the soul, though they seem to conquer, are really conquered. 

And by reason of all these affections, the soul, when encased in a 
mortal body, now, as in the beginning, is at first without 
intelligence; but when the flood of growth and nutriment abates, and 
the courses of the soul, calming down, go their own way and become 
steadier as time goes on, then the several circles return to their 
natural form, and their revolutions are corrected, and they call the 
same and the other by their right names, and make the possessor of 
them to become a rational being. And if these combine in him with 
any true nurture or education, he attains the fulness and health of 
the perfect man, and escapes the worst disease of all; but if he 
neglects education he walks lame to the end of his life, and returns 
imperfect and good for nothing to the world below. This, however, is a 
later stage; at present we must treat more exactly the subject 
before us, which involves a preliminary enquiry into the generation of 
the body and its members, and as to how the soul was created-for 
what reason and by what providence of the gods; and holding fast to 
probability, we must pursue our way. 

First, then, the gods, imitating the spherical shape of the 
universe, enclosed the two divine courses in a spherical body, that, 
namely, which we now term the head, being the most divine part of us 
and the lord of all that is in us: to this the gods, when they put 
together the body, gave all the other members to be servants, 
considering that it partook of every sort of motion. In order then 
that it might not tumble about among the high and deep places of the 
earth, but might be able to get over the one and out of the other, 
they provided the body to be its vehicle and means of locomotion; 
which consequently had length and was furnished with four limbs 
extended and flexible; these God contrived to be instruments of 
locomotion with which it might take hold and find support, and so be 
able to pass through all places, carrying on high the dwelling-place 
of the most sacred and divine part of us. Such was the origin of 
legs and hands, which for this reason were attached to every man; 
and the gods, deeming the front part of man to be more honourable 
and more fit to command than the hinder part, made us to move mostly 
in a forward direction. Wherefore man must needs have his front part 
unlike and distinguished from the rest of his body. 

And so in the vessel of the head, they first of all put a face in 
which they inserted organs to minister in all things to the providence 
of the soul, and they appointed this part, which has authority, to 
be by nature the part which is in front. And of the organs they 
first contrived the eyes to give light, and the principle according to 
which they were inserted was as follows: So much of fire as would 
not burn, but gave a gentle light, they formed into a substance akin 
to the light of every-day life; and the pure fire which is within us 
and related thereto they made to flow through the eyes in a stream 
smooth and dense, compressing the whole eye, and especially the centre 
part, so that it kept out everything of a coarser nature, and 
allowed to pass only this pure element. When the light of day 
surrounds the stream of vision, then like falls upon like, and they 
coalesce, and one body is formed by natural affinity in the line of 
vision, wherever the light that falls from within meets with an 



external object. And the whole stream of vision, being similarly 
affected in virtue of similarity, diffuses the motions of what it 
touches or what touches it over the whole body, until they reach the 
soul, causing that perception which we call sight. But when night 
comes on and the external and kindred fire departs, then the stream of 
vision is cut off; for going forth to an unlike element it is 
changed and extinguished, being no longer of one nature with the 
surrounding atmosphere which is now deprived of fire: and so the eye 
no longer sees, and we feel disposed to sleep. For when the eyelids, 
which the gods invented for the preservation of sight, are closed, 
they keep in the internal fire; and the power of the fire diffuses and 
equalises the inward motions; when they are equalised, there is 
rest, and when the rest is profound, sleep comes over us scarce 
disturbed by dreams; but where the greater motions still remain, of 
whatever nature and in whatever locality, they engender 
corresponding visions in dreams, which are remembered by us when we 
are awake and in the external world. And now there is no longer any 
difficulty in understanding the creation of images in mirrors and 
all smooth and bright surfaces. For from the communion of the internal 
and external fires, and again from the union of them and their 
numerous transformations when they meet in the mirror, all these 
appearances of necessity arise, when the fire from the face 
coalesces with the fire from the eye on the bright and smooth surface. 
And right appears left and left right, because the visual rays come 
into contact with the rays emitted by the object in a manner 
contrary to the usual mode of meeting; but the right appears right, 
and the left left, when the position of one of the two concurring 
lights is reversed; and this happens when the mirror is concave and 
its smooth surface repels the right stream of vision to the left side, 
and the left to the right. Or if the mirror be turned vertically, then 
the concavity makes the countenance appear to be all upside down, 
and the lower rays are driven upwards and the upper downwards . 

All these are to be reckoned among the second and co-operative 
causes which God, carrying into execution the idea of the best as 
far as possible, uses as his ministers. They are thought by most men 
not to be the second, but the prime causes of all things, because they 
freeze and heat, and contract and dilate, and the like. But they are 
not so, for they are incapable of reason or intellect; the only 
being which can properly have mind is the invisible soul, whereas fire 
and water, and earth and air, are all of them visible bodies. The 
lover of intellect and knowledge ought to explore causes of 
intelligent nature first of all, and, secondly, of those things which, 
being moved by others, are compelled to move others. And this is 
what we too must do. Both kinds of causes should be acknowledged by 
us, but a distinction should be made between those which are endowed 
with mind and are the workers of things fair and good, and those which 
are deprived of intelligence and always produce chance effects without 
order or design. Of the second or co-operative causes of sight, 
which help to give to the eyes the power which they now possess, 
enough has been said. I will therefore now proceed to speak of the 
higher use and purpose for which God has given them to us. The sight 
in my opinion is the source of the greatest benefit to us, for had 
we never seen the stars, and the sun, and the heaven, none of the 
words which we have spoken about the universe would ever have been 
uttered. But now the sight of day and night, and the months and the 
revolutions of the years, have created number, and have given us a 
conception of time, and the power of enquiring about the nature of the 
universe; and from this source we have derived philosophy, than 
which no greater good ever was or will be given by the gods to 
mortal man. This is the greatest boon of sight: and of the lesser 
benefits why should I speak? even the ordinary man if he were deprived 
of them would bewail his loss, but in vain. Thus much let me say 
however: God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might 
behold the courses of intelligence in the heaven, and apply them to 



the courses of our own intelligence which are akin to them, the 
unperturbed to the perturbed; and that we, learning them and partaking 
of the natural truth of reason, might imitate the absolutely 
unerring courses of God and regulate our own vagaries. The same may be 
affirmed of speech and hearing: they have been given by the gods to 
the same end and for a like reason. For this is the principal end of 
speech, whereto it most contributes. Moreover, so much of music as 
is adapted to the sound of the voice and to the sense of hearing is 
granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has 
motions akin to the revolutions of our souls, is not regarded by the 
intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to 
irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our 
day, but as meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in 
the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into 
harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them 
for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways 
which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them. 

Thus far in what we have been saying, with small exception, the 
works of intelligence have been set forth; and now we must place by 
the side of them in our discourse the things which come into being 
through necessity-f or the creation is mixed, being made up of 
necessity and mind. Mind, the ruling power, persuaded necessity to 
bring the greater part of created things to perfection, and thus and 
after this manner in the beginning, when the influence of reason got 
the better of necessity, the universe was created. But if a person 
will truly tell of the way in which the work was accomplished, he must 
include the other influence of the variable cause as well. 
Wherefore, we must return again and find another suitable beginning, 
as about the former matters, so also about these. To which end we must 
consider the nature of fire, and water, and air, and earth, such as 
they were prior to the creation of the heaven, and what was 
happening to them in this previous state; for no one has as yet 
explained the manner of their generation, but we speak of fire and the 
rest of them, whatever they mean, as though men knew their natures, 
and we maintain them to be the first principles and letters or 
elements of the whole, when they cannot reasonably be compared by a 
man of any sense even to syllables or first compounds. And let me 
say thus much: I will not now speak of the first principle or 
principles of all things, or by whatever name they are to be called, 
for this reason-because it is difficult to set forth my opinion 
according to the method of discussion which we are at present 
employing. Do not imagine, any more than I can bring myself to 
imagine, that I should be right in undertaking so great and 
difficult a task. Remembering what I said at first about 
probability, I will do my best to give as probable an explanation as 
any other-or rather, more probable; and I will first go back to the 
beginning and try to speak of each thing and of all. Once more, 
then, at the commencement of my discourse, I call upon God, and beg 
him to be our saviour out of a strange and unwonted enquiry, and to 
bring us to the haven of probability. So now let us begin again. 

This new beginning of our discussion of the universe requires a 
fuller division than the former; for then we made two classes, now a 
third must be revealed. The two sufficed for the former discussion: 
one, which we assumed, was a pattern intelligible and always the same; 
and the second was only the imitation of the pattern, generated and 
visible. There is also a third kind which we did not distinguish at 
the time, conceiving that the two would be enough. But now the 
argument seems to require that we should set forth in words another 
kind, which is difficult of explanation and dimly seen. What nature 
are we to attribute to this new kind of being? We reply, that it is 
the receptacle, and in a manner the nurse, of all generation. I have 
spoken the truth; but I must express myself in clearer language, and 
this will be an arduous task for many reasons, and in particular 
because I must first raise questions concerning fire and the other 



elements, and determine what each of them is; for to say, with any 
probability or certitude, which of them should be called water 
rather than fire, and which should be called any of them rather than 
all or some one of them, is a difficult matter. How, then, shall we 
settle this point, and what questions about the elements may be fairly 
raised? 

In the first place, we see that what we just now called water, by 
condensation, I suppose, becomes stone and earth; and this same 
element, when melted and dispersed, passes into vapour and air. Air, 
again, when inflamed, becomes fire; and again fire, when condensed and 
extinguished, passes once more into the form of air; and once more, 
air, when collected and condensed, produces cloud and mist; and from 
these, when still more compressed, comes flowing water, and from water 
comes earth and stones once more; and thus generation appears to be 
transmitted from one to the other in a circle. Thus, then, as the 
several elements never present themselves in the same form, how can 
any one have the assurance to assert positively that any of them, 
whatever it may be, is one thing rather than another? No one can. 
But much the safest plan is to speak of them as follows : -Anything 
which we see to be continually changing, as, for example, fire, we 
must not call "this" or "that," but rather say that it is "of such a 
nature"; nor let us speak of water as "this"; but always as "such"; 
nor must we imply that there is any stability in any of those things 
which we indicate by the use of the words "this" and "that," supposing 
ourselves to signify something thereby; for they are too volatile to 
be detained in any such expressions as "this," or "that," or "relative 
to this," or any other mode of speaking which represents them as 
permanent. We ought not to apply "this" to any of them, but rather the 
word "such"; which expresses the similar principle circulating in each 
and all of them; for example, that should be called "fire" which is of 
such a nature always, and so of everything that has generation. That 
in which the elements severally grow up, and appear, and decay, is 
alone to be called by the name "this" or "that"; but that which is 
of a certain nature, hot or white, or anything which admits of 
opposite equalities, and all things that are compounded of them, ought 
not to be so denominated. Let me make another attempt to explain my 
meaning more clearly. Suppose a person to make all kinds of figures of 
gold and to be always transmuting one form into all the 
rest-somebody points to one of them and asks what it is. By far the 
safest and truest answer is, That is gold; and not to call the 
triangle or any other figures which are formed in the gold "these, " as 
though they had existence, since they are in process of change while 
he is making the assertion; but if the questioner be willing to take 
the safe and indefinite expression, "such," we should be satisfied. 
And the same argument applies to the universal nature which receives 
all bodies-that must be always called the same; for, while receiving 
all things, she never departs at all from her own nature, and never in 
any way, or at any time, assumes a form like that of any of the things 
which enter into her; she is the natural recipient of all impressions, 
and is stirred and informed by them, and appears different from time 
to time by reason of them. But the forms which enter into and go out 
of her are the likenesses of real existences modelled after their 
patterns in wonderful and inexplicable manner, which we will hereafter 
investigate. For the present we have only to conceive of three 
natures: first, that which is in process of generation; secondly, that 
in which the generation takes place; and thirdly, that of which the 
thing generated is a resemblance. And we may liken the receiving 
principle to a mother, and the source or spring to a father, and the 
intermediate nature to a child; and may remark further, that if the 
model is to take every variety of form, then the matter in which the 
model is fashioned will not be duly prepared, unless it is formless, 
and free from the impress of any of these shapes which it is hereafter 
to receive from without. For if the matter were like any of the 
supervening forms, then whenever any opposite or entirely different 



nature was stamped upon its surface, it would take the impression 
badly, because it would intrude its own shape. Wherefore, that which 
is to receive all forms should have no form; as in making perfumes 
they first contrive that the liquid substance which is to receive 
the scent shall be as inodorous as possible; or as those who wish to 
impress figures on soft substances do not allow any previous 
impression to remain, but begin by making the surface as even and 
smooth as possible. In the same way that which is to receive 
perpetually and through its whole extent the resemblances of all 
eternal beings ought to be devoid of any particular form. Wherefore, 
the mother and receptacle of all created and visible and in any way 
sensible things, is not to be termed earth, or air, or fire, or water, 
or any of their compounds or any of the elements from which these 
are derived, but is an invisible and formless being which receives all 
things and in some mysterious way partakes of the intelligible, and is 
most incomprehensible. In saying this we shall not be far wrong; as 
far, however, as we can attain to a knowledge of her from the previous 
considerations, we may truly say that fire is that part of her 
nature which from time to time is inflamed, and water that which is 
moistened, and that the mother substance becomes earth and air, in 
so far as she receives the impressions of them. 

Let us consider this question more precisely. Is there any 
self-existent fire? and do all those things which we call 
self-existent exist? or are only those things which we see, or in some 
way perceive through the bodily organs, truly existent, and nothing 
whatever besides them? And is all that which, we call an 
intelligible essence nothing at all, and only a name? Here is a 
question which we must not leave unexamined or undetermined, nor 
must we affirm too confidently that there can be no decision; 
neither must we interpolate in our present long discourse a digression 
equally long, but if it is possible to set forth a great principle 
in a few words, that is just what we want. 

Thus I state my view: -If mind and true opinion are two distinct 
classes, then I say that there certainly are these self-existent ideas 
unperceived by sense, and apprehended only by the mind; if, however, 
as some say, true opinion differs in no respect from mind, then 
everything that we perceive through the body is to be regarded as most 
real and certain. But we must affirm that to be distinct, for they 
have a distinct origin and are of a different nature; the one is 
implanted in us by instruction, the other by persuasion; the one is 
always accompanied by true reason, the other is without reason; the 
one cannot be overcome by persuasion, but the other can: and lastly, 
every man may be said to share in true opinion, but mind is the 
attribute of the gods and of very few men. Wherefore also we must 
acknowledge that there is one kind of being which is always the 
same, uncreated and indestructible, never receiving anything into 
itself from without, nor itself going out to any other, but 
invisible and imperceptible by any sense, and of which the 
contemplation is granted to intelligence only. And there is another 
nature of the same name with it, and like to it, perceived by sense, 
created, always in motion, becoming in place and again vanishing out 
of place, which is apprehended by opinion and sense. And there is a 
third nature, which is space, and is eternal, and admits not of 
destruction and provides a home for all created things, and is 
apprehended without the help of sense, by a kind of spurious reason, 
and is hardly real; which we beholding as in a dream, say of all 
existence that it must of necessity be in some place and occupy a 
space, but that what is neither in heaven nor in earth has no 
existence. Of these and other things of the same kind, relating to the 
true and waking reality of nature, we have only this dreamlike 
sense, and we are unable to cast off sleep and determine the truth 
about them. For an image, since the reality, after which it is 
modelled, does not belong to it, and it exists ever as the fleeting 
shadow of some other, must be inferred to be in another [i.e. in space 



], grasping existence in some way or other, or it could not be at all. 
But true and exact reason, vindicating the nature of true being, 
maintains that while two things [i.e. the image and space] are 
different they cannot exist one of them in the other and so be one and 
also two at the same time. 

Thus have I concisely given the result of my thoughts; and my 
verdict is that being and space and generation, these three, existed 
in their three ways before the heaven; and that the nurse of 
generation, moistened by water and inflamed by fire, and receiving the 
forms of earth and air, and experiencing all the affections which 
accompany these, presented a strange variety of appearances; and being 
full of powers which were neither similar nor equally balanced, was 
never in any part in a state of equipoise, but swaying unevenly hither 
and thither, was shaken by them, and by its motion again shook them; 
and the elements when moved were separated and carried continually, 
some one way, some another; as, when rain is shaken and winnowed by 
fans and other instruments used in the threshing of corn, the close 
and heavy particles are borne away and settle in one direction, and 
the loose and light particles in another. In this manner, the four 
kinds or elements were then shaken by the receiving vessel, which, 
moving like a winnowing machine, scattered far away from one another 
the elements most unlike, and forced the most similar elements into 
dose contact. Wherefore also the various elements had different places 
before they were arranged so as to form the universe. At first, they 
were all without reason and measure. But when the world began to get 
into order, fire and water and earth and air had only certain faint 
traces of themselves, and were altogether such as everything might 
be expected to be in the absence of God; this, I say, was their nature 
at that time, and God fashioned them by form and number. Let it be 
consistently maintained by us in all that we say that God made them as 
far as possible the fairest and best, out of things which were not 
fair and good. And now I will endeavour to show you the disposition 
and generation of them by an unaccustomed argument, which am compelled 
to use; but I believe that you will be able to follow me, for your 
education has made you familiar with the methods of science. 

In the first place, then, as is evident to all, fire and earth and 
water and air are bodies. And every sort of body possesses solidity, 
and every solid must necessarily be contained in planes; and every 
plane rectilinear figure is composed of triangles; and all triangles 
are originally of two kinds, both of which are made up of one right 
and two acute angles; one of them has at either end of the base the 
half of a divided right angle, having equal sides, while in the 
other the right angle is divided into unequal parts, having unequal 
sides. These, then, proceeding by a combination of probability with 
demonstration, we assume to be the original elements of fire and the 
other bodies; but the principles which are prior to these God only 
knows, and he of men who is the friend God. And next we have to 
determine what are the four most beautiful bodies which are unlike one 
another, and of which some are capable of resolution into one another; 
for having discovered thus much, we shall know the true origin of 
earth and fire and of the proportionate and intermediate elements. And 
then we shall not be willing to allow that there are any distinct 
kinds of visible bodies fairer than these. Wherefore we must endeavour 
to construct the four forms of bodies which excel in beauty, and 
then we shall be able to say that we have sufficiently apprehended 
their nature. Now of the two triangles, the isosceles has one form 
only; the scalene or unequal-sided has an infinite number. Of the 
infinite forms we must select the most beautiful, if we are to proceed 
in due order, and any one who can point out a more beautiful form than 
ours for the construction of these bodies, shall carry off the palm, 
not as an enemy, but as a friend. Now, the one which we maintain to be 
the most beautiful of all the many triangles (and we need not speak of 
the others) is that of which the double forms a third triangle which 
is equilateral; the reason of this would be long to tell; he who 



disproves what we are saying, and shows that we are mistaken, may 
claim a friendly victory. Then let us choose two triangles, out of 
which fire and the other elements have been constructed, one 
isosceles, the other having the square of the longer side equal to 
three times the square of the lesser side. 

Now is the time to explain what was before obscurely said: there was 
an error in imagining that all the four elements might be generated by 
and into one another; this, I say, was an erroneous supposition, for 
there are generated from the triangles which we have selected four 
kinds-three from the one which has the sides unequal; the fourth alone 
is framed out of the isosceles triangle. Hence they cannot all be 
resolved into one another, a great number of small bodies being 
combined into a few large ones, or the converse. But three of them can 
be thus resolved and compounded, for they all spring from one, and 
when the greater bodies are broken up, many small bodies will spring 
up out of them and take their own proper figures; or, again, when many 
small bodies are dissolved into their triangles, if they become one, 
they will form one large mass of another kind. So much for their 
passage into one another. I have now to speak of their several 
kinds, and show out of what combinations of numbers each of them was 
formed. The first will be the simplest and smallest construction, 
and its element is that triangle which has its hypotenuse twice the 
lesser side. When two such triangles are joined at the diagonal, and 
this is repeated three times, and the triangles rest their diagonals 
and shorter sides on the same point as a centre, a single 
equilateral triangle is formed out of six triangles; and four 
equilateral triangles, if put together, make out of every three 
plane angles one solid angle, being that which is nearest to the 
most obtuse of plane angles; and out of the combination of these 
four angles arises the first solid form which distributes into equal 
and similar parts the whole circle in which it is inscribed. The 
second species of solid is formed out of the same triangles, which 
unite as eight equilateral triangles and form one solid angle out of 
four plane angles, and out of six such angles the second body is 
completed. And the third body is made up of 120 triangular elements, 
forming twelve solid angles, each of them included in five plane 
equilateral triangles, having altogether twenty bases, each of which 
is an equilateral triangle. The one element [that is, the triangle 
which has its hypotenuse twice the lesser side] having generated these 
figures, generated no more; but the isosceles triangle produced the 
fourth elementary figure, which is compounded of four such 
triangles, joining their right angles in a centre, and forming one 
equilateral quadrangle. Six of these united form eight solid angles, 
each of which is made by the combination of three plane right 
angles; the figure of the body thus composed is a cube, having six 
plane quadrangular equilateral bases. There was yet a fifth 
combination which God used in the delineation of the universe. 

Now, he who, duly reflecting on all this, enquires whether the 
worlds are to be regarded as indefinite or definite in number, will be 
of opinion that the notion of their indef initeness is characteristic 
of a sadly indefinite and ignorant mind. He, however, who raises the 
question whether they are to be truly regarded as one or five, takes 
up a more reasonable position. Arguing from probabilities, I am of 
opinion that they are one; another, regarding the question from 
another point of view, will be of another mind. But, leaving this 
enquiry, let us proceed to distribute the elementary forms, which have 
now been created in idea, among the four elements. 

To earth, then, let us assign the cubical form; for earth is the 
most immoveable of the four and the most plastic of all bodies, and 
that which has the most stable bases must of necessity be of such a 
nature. Now, of the triangles which we assumed at first, that which 
has two equal sides is by nature more firmly based than that which has 
unequal sides; and of the compound figures which are formed out of 
either, the plane equilateral quadrangle has necessarily, a more 



stable basis than the equilateral triangle, both in the whole and in 
the parts. Wherefore, in assigning this figure to earth, we adhere 
to probability; and to water we assign that one of the remaining forms 
which is the least moveable; and the most moveable of them to fire; 
and to air that which is intermediate. Also we assign the smallest 
body to fire, and the greatest to water, and the intermediate in 
size to air; and, again, the acutest body to fire, and the next in 
acuteness to, air, and the third to water. Of all these elements, that 
which has the fewest bases must necessarily be the most moveable, 
for it must be the acutest and most penetrating in every way, and also 
the lightest as being composed of the smallest number of similar 
particles: and the second body has similar properties in a second 
degree, and the third body in the third degree. Let it be agreed, 
then, both according to strict reason and according to probability, 
that the pyramid is the solid which is the original element and seed 
of fire; and let us assign the element which was next in the order 
of generation to air, and the third to water. We must imagine all 
these to be so small that no single particle of any of the four 
kinds is seen by us on account of their smallness: but when many of 
them are collected together their aggregates are seen. And the 
ratios of their numbers, motions, and other properties, everywhere 
God, as far as necessity allowed or gave consent, has exactly 
perfected, and harmonised in due proportion. 

From all that we have just been saying about the elements or 
kinds, the most probable conclusion is as follows : -earth, when meeting 
with fire and dissolved by its sharpness, whether the dissolution take 
place in the fire itself or perhaps in some mass of air or water, is 
borne hither and thither, until its parts, meeting together and 
mutually harmonising, again become earth; for they can never take 
any other form. But water, when divided by fire or by air, on 
reforming, may become one part fire and two parts air; and a single 
volume of air divided becomes two of fire. Again, when a small body of 
fire is contained in a larger body of air or water or earth, and 
both are moving, and the fire struggling is overcome and broken up, 
then two volumes of fire form one volume of air; and when air is 
overcome and cut up into small pieces, two and a half parts of air are 
condensed into one part of water. Let us consider the matter in 
another way. When one of the other elements is fastened upon by 
fire, and is cut by the sharpness of its angles and sides, it 
coalesces with the fire, and then ceases to be cut by them any longer. 
For no element which is one and the same with itself can be changed by 
or change another of the same kind and in the same state. But so 
long as in the process of transition the weaker is fighting against 
the stronger, the dissolution continues. Again, when a few small 
particles, enclosed in many larger ones, are in process of 
decomposition and extinction, they only cease from their tendency to 
extinction when they consent to pass into the conquering nature, and 
fire becomes air and air water. But if bodies of another kind go and 
attack them [i.e. the small particles], the latter continue to be 
dissolved until, being completely forced back and dispersed, they make 
their escape to their own kindred, or else, being overcome and 
assimilated to the conquering power, they remain where they are and 
dwell with their victors, and from being many become one. And owing to 
these affections, all things are changing their place, for by the 
motion of the receiving vessel the bulk of each class is distributed 
into its proper place; but those things which become unlike themselves 
and like other things, are hurried by the shaking into the place of 
the things to which they grow like. 

Now all unmixed and primary bodies are produced by such causes as 
these. As to the subordinate species which are included in the greater 
kinds, they are to be attributed to the varieties in the structure 
of the two original triangles. For either structure did not originally 
produce the triangle of one size only, but some larger and some 
smaller, and there are as many sizes as there are species of the 



four elements . Hence when they are mingled with themselves and with 
one another there is an endless variety of them, which those who would 
arrive at the probable truth of nature ought duly to consider. 

Unless a person comes to an understanding about the nature and 
conditions of rest and motion, he will meet with many difficulties 
in the discussion which follows. Something has been said of this 
matter already, and something more remains to be said, which is, 
that motion never exists in what is uniform. For to conceive that 
anything can be moved without a mover is hard or indeed impossible, 
and equally impossible to conceive that there can be a mover unless 
there be something which can be moved-motion cannot exist where either 
of these are wanting, and for these to be uniform is impossible; 
wherefore we must assign rest to uniformity and motion to the want 
of uniformity. Now inequality is the cause of the nature which is 
wanting in uniformity; and of this we have already described the 
origin. But there still remains the further point-why things when 
divided after their kinds do not cease to pass through one another and 
to change their place-which we will now proceed to explain. In the 
revolution of the universe are comprehended all the four elements, and 
this being circular and having a tendency to come together, compresses 
everything and will not allow any place to be left void. Wherefore, 
also, fire above all things penetrates everywhere, and air next, as 
being next in rarity of the elements; and the two other elements in 
like manner penetrate according to their degrees of rarity. For 
those things which are composed of the largest particles have the 
largest void left in their compositions, and those which are 
composed of the smallest particles have the least. And the contraction 
caused by the compression thrusts the smaller particles into the 
interstices of the larger. And thus, when the small parts are placed 
side by side with the larger, and the lesser divide the greater and 
the greater unite the lesser, all the elements are borne up and down 
and hither and thither towards their own places; for the change in the 
size of each changes its position in space. And these causes 
generate an inequality which is always maintained, and is 
continually creating a perpetual motion of the elements in all time. 

In the next place we have to consider that there are divers kinds of 
fire. There are, for example, first, flame; and secondly, those 
emanations of flame which do not burn but only give light to the eyes; 
thirdly, the remains of fire, which are seen in red-hot embers after 
the flame has been extinguished. There are similar differences in 
the air; of which the brightest part is called the aether, and the 
most turbid sort mist and darkness; and there are various other 
nameless kinds which arise from the inequality of the triangles. 
Water, again, admits in the first place of a division into two 
kinds; the one liquid and the other fusile. The liquid kind is 
composed of the small and unequal particles of water; and moves itself 
and is moved by other bodies owing to the want of uniformity and the 
shape of its particles; whereas the fusile kind, being formed of large 
and uniform particles, is more stable than the other, and is heavy and 
compact by reason of its uniformity. But when fire gets in and 
dissolves the particles and destroys the uniformity, it has greater 
mobility, and becoming fluid is thrust forth by the neighbouring air 
and spreads upon the earth; and this dissolution of the solid masses 
is called melting, and their spreading out upon the earth flowing. 
Again, when the fire goes out of the fusile substance, it does not 
pass into vacuum, but into the neighbouring air; and the air which 
is displaced forces together the liquid and still moveable mass into 
the place which was occupied by the fire, and unites it with itself. 
Thus compressed the mass resumes its equability, and is again at unity 
with itself, because the fire which was the author of the inequality 
has retreated; and this departure of the fire is called cooling, and 
the coming together which follows upon it is termed congealment. Of 
all the kinds termed fusile, that which is the densest and is formed 
out of the finest and most uniform parts is that most precious 



possession called gold, which is hardened by filtration through 
rock; this is unique in kind, and has both a glittering and a yellow 
colour. A shoot of gold, which is so dense as to be very hard, and 
takes a black colour, is termed adamant. There is also another kind 
which has parts nearly like gold, and of which there are several 
species; it is denser than gold, and it contains a small and fine 
portion of earth, and is therefore harder, yet also lighter because of 
the great interstices which it has within itself; and this 
substance, which is one of the bright and denser kinds of water, 
when solidified is called copper. There is an alloy of earth mingled 
with it, which, when the two parts grow old and are disunited, shows 
itself separately and is called rust. The remaining phenomena of the 
same kind there will be no difficulty in reasoning out by the method 
of probabilities. A man may sometimes set aside meditations about 
eternal things, and for recreation turn to consider the truths of 
generation which are probable only; he will thus gain a pleasure not 
to be repented of, and secure for himself while he lives a wise and 
moderate pastime. Let us grant ourselves this indulgence, and go 
through the probabilities relating to the same subjects which follow 
next in order. 

Water which is mingled with fire, so much as is fine and liquid 
(being so called by reason of its motion and the way in which it rolls 
along the ground) , and soft, because its bases give way are less 
stable than those of earth, when separated from fire and air and 
isolated, becomes more uniform, and by their retirement is 
compressed into itself; and if the condensation be very great, the 
water above the earth becomes hail, but on the earth, ice; and that 
which is congealed in a less degree and is only half solid, when above 
the earth is called snow, and when upon the earth, and condensed 
from dew, hoarfrost. Then, again, there are the numerous kinds of 
water which have been mingled with one another, and are distilled 
through plants which grow in the earth; and this whole class is called 
by the name of juices or saps. The unequal admixture of these fluids 
creates a variety of species; most of them are nameless, but four 
which are of a fiery nature are clearly distinguished and have 
names. First there is wine, which warms the soul as well as the 
body: secondly, there is the oily nature, which is smooth and 
divides the visual ray, and for this reason is bright and shining 
and of a glistening appearance, including pitch, the juice of the 
castor berry, oil itself, and other things of a like kind: thirdly, 
there is the class of substances which expand the contracted parts 
of the mouth, until they return to their natural state, and by 
reason of this property create sweetness; -these are included under the 
general name of honey: and, lastly, there is a frothy nature, which 
differs from all juices, having a burning quality which dissolves 
the flesh; it is called opos (a vegetable acid) . 

As to the kinds of earth, that which is filtered through water 
passes into stone in the following manner: -The water which mixes 
with the earth and is broken up in the process changes into air, and 
taking this form mounts into its own place. But as there is no 
surrounding vacuum it thrusts away the neighbouring air, and this 
being rendered heavy, and, when it is displaced, having been poured 
around the mass of earth, forcibly compresses it and drives it into 
the vacant space whence the new air had come up; and the earth when 
compressed by the air into an indissoluble union with water becomes 
rock. The fairer sort is that which is made up of equal and similar 
parts and is transparent; that which has the opposite qualities is 
inferior. But when all the watery part is suddenly drawn out by 
fire, a more brittle substance is formed, to which we give the name of 
pottery. Sometimes also moisture may remain, and the earth which has 
been fused by fire becomes, when cool, a certain stone of a black 
colour. A like separation of the water which had been copiously 
mingled with them may occur in two substances composed of finer 
particles of earth and of a briny nature; out of either of them a half 



solid body is then formed, soluble in water-the one, soda, which is 
used for purging away oil and earth, and other, salt, which harmonizes 
so well in combinations pleasing to the palate, and is, as the law 
testifies, a substance dear to the gods. The compounds of earth and 
water are not soluble by water, but by fire only, and for this 
reason : -Neither fire nor air melt masses of earth; for their 
particles, being smaller than the interstices in its structure, have 
plenty of room to move without forcing their way, and so they leave 
the earth unmelted and undissolved; but particles of water, which 
are larger, force a passage, and dissolve and melt the earth. 
Wherefore earth when not consolidated by force is dissolved by water 
only; when consolidated, by nothing but fire; for this is the only 
body which can find an entrance. The cohesion of water again, when 
very strong, is dissolved by fire only-when weaker, then either by air 
or fire-the former entering the interstices, and the latter 
penetrating even the triangles. But nothing can dissolve air, when 
strongly condensed, which does not reach the elements or triangles; or 
if not strongly condensed, then only fire can dissolve it. As to 
bodies composed of earth and water, while the water occupies the 
vacant interstices of the earth in them which are compressed by force, 
the particles of water which approach them from without, finding no 
entrance, flow around the entire mass and leave it undissolved; but 
the particles of fire, entering into the interstices of the water, 
do to the water what water does to earth and fire to air, and are 
the sole causes of the compound body of earth and water liquefying and 
becoming fluid. Now these bodies are of two kinds; some of them, 
such as glass and the fusible sort of stones, have less water than 
they have earth; on the other hand, substances of the nature of wax 
and incense have more of water entering into their composition. 

I have thus shown the various classes of bodies as they are 
diversified by their forms and combinations and changes into one 
another, and now I must endeavour to set forth their affections and 
the causes of them. In the first place, the bodies which I have been 
describing are necessarily objects of sense. But we have not yet 
considered the origin of flesh, or what belongs to flesh, or of that 
part of the soul which is mortal. And these things cannot be 
adequately explained without also explaining the affections which 
are concerned with sensation, nor the latter without the former: and 
yet to explain them together is hardly possible; for which reason we 
must assume first one or the other and afterwards examine the nature 
of our hypothesis. In order, then, that the affections may follow 
regularly after the elements, let us presuppose the existence of 
body and soul . 

First, let us enquire what we mean by saying that fire is hot; and 
about this we may reason from the dividing or cutting power which it 
exercises on our bodies. We all of us feel that fire is sharp; and 
we may further consider the fineness of the sides, and the sharpness 
of the angles, and the smallness of the particles, and the swiftness 
of the motion-all this makes the action of fire violent and sharp, 
so that it cuts whatever it meets . And we must not forget that the 
original figure of fire [i.e. the pyramid], more than any other 
form, has a dividing power which cuts our bodies into small pieces 
(Kepmatizei) , and thus naturally produces that affection which we call 
heat; and hence the origin of the name (thepmos, Kepma) . Now, the 
opposite of this is sufficiently manifest; nevertheless we will not 
fail to describe it. For the larger particles of moisture which 
surround the body, entering in and driving out the lesser, but not 
being able to take their places, compress the moist principle in us; 
and this from being unequal and disturbed, is forced by them into a 
state of rest, which is due to equability and compression. But 
things which are contracted contrary to nature are by nature at war, 
and force themselves apart; and to this war and convulsion the name of 
shivering and trembling is given; and the whole affection and the 
cause of the affection are both termed cold. That is called hard to 



which our flesh yields, and soft which yields to our flesh; and things 
are also termed hard and soft relatively to one another. That which 
yields has a small base; but that which rests on quadrangular bases is 
firmly posed and belongs to the class which offers the greatest 
resistance; so too does that which is the most compact and therefore 
most repellent. The nature of the light and the heavy will be best 
understood when examined in connexion with our notions of above and 
below; for it is quite a mistake to suppose that the universe is 
parted into two regions, separate from and opposite to each other, the 
one a lower to which all things tend which have any bulk, and an upper 
to which things only ascend against their will. For as the universe is 
in the form of a sphere, all the extremities, being equidistant from 
the centre, are equally extremities, and the centre, which is 
equidistant from them, is equally to be regarded as the opposite of 
them all. Such being the nature of the world, when a person says 
that any of these points is above or below, may he not be justly 
charged with using an improper expression? For the centre of the world 
cannot be rightly called either above or below, but is the centre 
and nothing else; and the circumference is not the centre, and has 
in no one part of itself a different relation to the centre from 
what it has in any of the opposite parts. Indeed, when it is in 
every direction similar, how can one rightly give to it names which 
imply opposition? For if there were any solid body in equipoise at the 
centre of the universe, there would be nothing to draw it to this 
extreme rather than to that, for they are all perfectly similar; and 
if a person were to go round the world in a circle, he would often, 
when standing at the antipodes of his former position, speak of the 
same point as above and below; for, as I was saying just now, to speak 
of the whole which is in the form of a globe as having one part 
above and another below is not like a sensible man. 

The reason why these names are used, and the circumstances under 
which they are ordinarily applied by us to the division of the 
heavens, may be elucidated by the following supposition : -if a person 
were to stand in that part of the universe which is the appointed 
place of fire, and where there is the great mass of fire to which 
fiery bodies gather-if, I say, he were to ascend thither, and, 
having the power to do this, were to abstract particles of fire and 
put them in scales and weigh them, and then, raising the balance, were 
to draw the fire by force towards the uncongenial element of the 
air, it would be very evident that he could compel the smaller mass 
more readily than the larger; for when two things are simultaneously 
raised by one and the same power, the smaller body must necessarily 
yield to the superior power with less reluctance than the larger; 
and the larger body is called heavy and said to tend downwards, and 
the smaller body is called light and said to tend upwards. And we 
may detect ourselves who are upon the earth doing precisely the same 
thing. For we of separate earthy natures, and sometimes earth 
itself, and draw them into the uncongenial element of air by force and 
contrary to nature, both clinging to their kindred elements. But 
that which is smaller yields to the impulse given by us towards the 
dissimilar element more easily than the larger; and so we call the 
former light, and the place towards which it is impelled we call 
above, and the contrary state and place we call heavy and below 
respectively. Now the relations of these must necessarily vary, 
because the principal masses of the different elements hold opposite 
positions; for that which is light, heavy, below or above in one place 
will be found to be and become contrary and transverse and every way 
diverse in relation to that which is light, heavy, below or above in 
an opposite place. And about all of them this has to be 
considered : -that the tendency of each towards its kindred element 
makes the body which is moved heavy, and the place towards which the 
motion tends below, but things which have an opposite tendency we call 
by an opposite name. Such are the causes which we assign to these 
phenomena. As to the smooth and the rough, any one who sees them can 



explain the reason of them to another. For roughness is hardness 
mingled with irregularity, and smoothness is produced by the joint 
effect of uniformity and density. 

The most important of the affections which concern the whole body 
remains to be considered-that is, the cause of pleasure and pain in 
the perceptions of which I have been speaking, and in all other things 
which are perceived by sense through the parts of the body, and have 
both pains and pleasures attendant on them. Let us imagine the 
causes of every affection, whether of sense or not, to be of the 
following nature, remembering that we have already distinguished 
between the nature which is easy and which is hard to move; for this 
is the direction in which we must hunt the prey which we mean to take. 
A body which is of a nature to be easily moved, on receiving an 
impression however slight, spreads abroad the motion in a circle, 
the parts communicating with each other, until at last, reaching the 
principle of mind, they announce the quality of the agent. But a 
body of the opposite kind, being immobile, and not extending to the 
surrounding region, merely receives the impression, and does not 
stir any of the neighbouring parts; and since the parts do not 
distribute the original impression to other parts, it has no effect of 
motion on the whole animal, and therefore produces no effect on the 
patient. This is true of the bones and hair and other more earthy 
parts of the human body; whereas what was said above relates mainly to 
sight and hearing, because they have in them the greatest amount of 
fire and air. Now we must conceive of pleasure and pain in this way. 
An impression produced in us contrary to nature and violent, if 
sudden, is painful; and, again, the sudden return to nature is 
pleasant; but a gentle and gradual return is imperceptible and vice 
versa. On the other hand the impression of sense which is most 
easily produced is most readily felt, but is not accompanied by 
Pleasure or pain; such, for example, are the affections of the 
sight, which, as we said above, is a body naturally uniting with our 
body in the day-time; for cuttings and burnings and other 
affections which happen to the sight do not give pain, nor is there 
pleasure when the sight returns to its natural state; but the 
sensations are dearest and strongest according to the manner in 
which the eye is affected by the object, and itself strikes and 
touches it; there is no violence either in the contraction or dilation 
of the eye. But bodies formed of larger particles yield to the agent 
only with a struggle; and then they impart their motions to the 
whole and cause pleasure and pain-pain when alienated from their 
natural conditions, and pleasure when restored to them. Things which 
experience gradual withdrawings and emptyings of their nature, and 
great and sudden replenishments, fail to perceive the emptying, but 
are sensible of the replenishment; and so they occasion no pain, but 
the greatest pleasure, to the mortal part of the soul, as is 
manifest in the case of perfumes. But things which are changed all of 
a sudden, and only gradually and with difficulty return to their own 
nature, have effects in every way opposite to the former, as is 
evident in the case of burnings and cuttings of the body. 

Thus have we discussed the general affections of the whole body, and 
the names of the agents which produce them. And now I will endeavour 
to speak of the affections of particular parts, and the causes and 
agents of them, as far as I am able. In the first place let us set 
forth what was omitted when we were speaking of juices, concerning the 
affections peculiar to the tongue. These too, like most of the other 
affections, appear to be caused by certain contractions and dilations, 
but they have besides more of roughness and smoothness than is found 
in other affections; for whenever earthy particles enter into the 
small veins which are the testing of the tongue, reaching to the 
heart, and fall upon the moist, delicate portions of flesh-when, as 
they are dissolved, they contract and dry up the little veins, they 
are astringent if they are rougher, but if not so rough, then only 
harsh. Those of them which are of an abstergent nature, and purge 



the whole surface of the tongue, if they do it in excess, and so 
encroach as to consume some part of the flesh itself, like potash 
and soda, are all termed bitter. But the particles which are deficient 
in the alkaline quality, and which cleanse only moderately, are called 
salt, and having no bitterness or roughness, are regarded as rather 
agreeable than otherwise. Bodies which share in and are made smooth by 
the heat of the mouth, and which are inflamed, and again in turn 
inflame that which heats them, and which are so light that they are 
carried upwards to the sensations of the head, and cut all that 
comes in their way, by reason of these qualities in them, are all 
termed pungent. But when these same particles, refined by 
putrefaction, enter into the narrow veins, and are duly proportioned 
to the particles of earth and air which are there, they set them 
whirling about one another, and while they are in a whirl cause them 
to dash against and enter into one another, and so form hollows 
surrounding the particles that enter-which watery vessels of air 
(for a film of moisture, sometimes earthy, sometimes pure, is spread 
around the air) are hollow spheres of water; and those of them which 
are pure, are transparent, and are called bubbles, while those 
composed of the earthy liquid, which is in a state of general 
agitation and effervescence, are said to boil or ferment-of all 
these affections the cause is termed acid. And there is the opposite 
affection arising from an opposite cause, when the mass of entering 
particles, immersed in the moisture of the mouth, is congenial to 
the tongue, and smooths and oils over the roughness, and relaxes the 
parts which are unnaturally contracted, and contracts the parts 
which are relaxed, and disposes them all according to their 
nature-that sort of remedy of violent affections is pleasant and 
agreeable to every man, and has the name sweet. But enough of this. 

The faculty of smell does not admit of differences of kind; for 
all smells are of a half formed nature, and no element is so 
proportioned as to have any smell. The veins about the nose are too 
narrow to admit earth and water, and too wide to detain fire and 
air; and for this reason no one ever perceives the smell of any of 
them; but smells always proceed from bodies that are damp, or 
putrefying, or liquefying, or evaporating, and are perceptible only in 
the intermediate state, when water is changing into air and air into 
water; and all of them are either vapor or mist. That which is passing 
out of air into water is mist, and that which is passing from water 
into air is vapour; and hence all smells are thinner than water and 
thicker than air. The proof of this is, that when there is any 
obstruction to the respiration, and a man draws in his breath by 
force, then no smell filters through, but the air without the smell 
alone penetrates. Wherefore the varieties of smell have no name, and 
they have not many, or definite and simple kinds; but they are 
distinguished only painful and pleasant, the one sort irritating and 
disturbing the whole cavity which is situated between the head and the 
navel, the other having a soothing influence, and restoring this 
same region to an agreeable and natural condition. 

In considering the third kind of sense, hearing, we must speak of 
the causes in which it originates. We may in general assume sound to 
be a blow which passes through the ears, and is transmitted by means 
of the air, the brain, and the blood, to the soul, and that hearing is 
the vibration of this blow, which begins in the head and ends in the 
region of the liver. The sound which moves swiftly is acute, and the 
sound which moves slowly is grave, and that which is regular is 
equable and smooth, and the reverse is harsh. A great body of sound is 
loud, and a small body of sound the reverse. Respecting the 
harmonies of sound I must hereafter speak. 

There is a fourth class of sensible things, having many intricate 
varieties, which must now be distinguished. They are called by the 
general name of colours, and are a flame which emanates from every 
sort of body, and has particles corresponding to the sense of sight. I 
have spoken already, in what has preceded, of the causes which 



generate sight, and in this place it will be natural and suitable to 
give a rational theory of colours. 

Of the particles coming from other bodies which fall upon the sight, 
some are smaller and some are larger, and some are equal to the 
parts of the sight itself. Those which are equal are imperceptible, 
and we call them transparent. The larger produce contraction, the 
smaller dilation, in the sight, exercising a power akin to that of hot 
and cold bodies on the flesh, or of astringent bodies on the tongue, 
or of those heating bodies which we termed pungent. White and black 
are similar effects of contraction and dilation in another sphere, and 
for this reason have a different appearance. Wherefore, we ought to 
term white that which dilates the visual ray, and the opposite of this 
is black. There is also a swifter motion of a different sort of fire 
which strikes and dilates the ray of sight until it reaches the 
eyes, forcing a way through their passages and melting them, and 
eliciting from them a union of fire and water which we call tears, 
being itself an opposite fire which comes to them from an opposite 
direction-the inner fire flashes forth like lightning, and the outer 
finds a way in and is extinguished in the moisture, and all sorts of 
colours are generated by the mixture. This affection is termed 
dazzling, and the object which produces it is called bright and 
flashing. There is another sort of fire which is intermediate, and 
which reaches and mingles with the moisture of the eye without 
flashing; and in this, the fire mingling with the ray of the moisture, 
produces a colour like blood, to which we give the name of red. A 
bright hue mingled with red and white gives the colour called 
auburn. The law of proportion, however, according to which the several 
colours are formed, even if a man knew he would be foolish in telling, 
for he could not give any necessary reason, nor indeed any tolerable 
or probable explanation of them. Again, red, when mingled with black 
and white, becomes purple, but it becomes umber when the colours are 
burnt as well as mingled and the black is more thoroughly mixed with 
them. Flame colour is produced by a union of auburn and dun, and dun 
by an admixture of black and white; pale yellow, by an admixture of 
white and auburn. White and bright meeting, and falling upon a full 
black, become dark blue, and when dark blue mingles with white, a 
light blue colour is formed, as flame-colour with black makes leek 
green. There will be no difficulty in seeing how and by what 
mixtures the colours derived from these are made according to the 
rules of probability. He, however, who should attempt to verify all 
this by experiment, would forget the difference of the human and 
divine nature. For God only has the knowledge and also the power which 
are able to combine many things into one and again resolve the one 
into many. But no man either is or ever will be able to accomplish 
either the one or the other operation. 

These are the elements, thus of necessity then subsisting, which the 
creator of the fairest and best of created things associated with 
himself, when he made the self-sufficing and most perfect God, using 
the necessary causes as his ministers in the accomplishment of his 
work, but himself contriving the good in all his creations. 
Wherefore we may distinguish two sorts of causes, the one divine and 
the other necessary, and may seek for the divine in all things, as far 
as our nature admits, with a view to the blessed life; but the 
necessary kind only for the sake of the divine, considering that 
without them and when isolated from them, these higher things for 
which we look cannot be apprehended or received or in any way shared 
by us . 

Seeing, then, that we have now prepared for our use the various 
classes of causes which are the material out of which the remainder of 
our discourse must be woven, just as wood is the material of the 
carpenter, let us revert in a few words to the point at which we 
began, and then endeavour to add on a suitable ending to the beginning 
of our tale. 

As I said at first, when all things were in disorder God created 



in each thing in relation to itself, and in all things in relation 
to each other, all the measures and harmonies which they could 
possibly receive. For in those days nothing had any proportion 
except by accident; nor did any of the things which now have names 
deserve to be named at all-as, for example, fire, water, and the 
rest of the elements. All these the creator first set in order, and 
out of them he constructed the universe, which was a single animal 
comprehending in itself all other animals, mortal and immortal. Now of 
the divine, he himself was the creator, but the creation of the mortal 
he committed to his offspring. And they, imitating him, received 
from him the immortal principle of the soul; and around this they 
proceeded to fashion a mortal body, and. made it to be the vehicle 
of the so and constructed within the body a soul of another nature 
which was mortal, subject to terrible and irresistible 
affections-first of all, pleasure, the greatest incitement to evil; 
then, pain, which deters from good; also rashness and fear, two 
foolish counsellors, anger hard to be appeased, and hope easily led 
astray-these they mingled with irrational sense and with all-daring 
love according to necessary laws, and so framed man. Wherefore, 
fearing to pollute the divine any more than was absolutely 
unavoidable, they gave to the mortal nature a separate habitation in 
another part of the body, placing the neck between them to be the 
isthmus and boundary, which they constructed between the head and 
breast, to keep them apart. And in the breast, and in what is termed 
the thorax, they encased the mortal soul; and as the one part of 
this was superior and the other inferior they divided the cavity of 
the thorax into two parts, as the women's and men's apartments are 
divided in houses, and placed the midriff to be a wall of partition 
between them. That part of the inferior soul which is endowed with 
courage and passion and loves contention they settled nearer the head, 
midway between the midriff and the neck, in order that it might be 
under the rule of reason and might join with it in controlling and 
restraining the desires when they are no longer willing of their own 
accord to obey the word of command issuing from the citadel. 

The heart, the knot of the veins and the fountain of the blood which 
races through all the limbs was set in the place of guard, that when 
the might of passion was roused by reason making proclamation of any 
wrong assailing them from without or being perpetrated by the 
desires within, quickly the whole power of feeling in the body, 
perceiving these commands and threats, might obey and follow through 
every turn and alley, and thus allow the principle of the best to have 
the command in all of them. But the gods, foreknowing that the 
palpitation of the heart in the expectation of danger and the swelling 
and excitement of passion was caused by fire, formed and implanted 
as a supporter to the heart the lung, which was, in the first place, 
soft and bloodless, and also had within hollows like the pores of a 
sponge, in order that by receiving the breath and the drink, it 
might give coolness and the power of respiration and alleviate the 
heat. Wherefore they cut the air-channels leading to the lung, and 
placed the lung about the heart as a soft spring, that, when passion 
was rife within, the heart, beating against a yielding body, might 
be cooled and suffer less, and might thus become more ready to join 
with passion in the service of reason. 

The part of the soul which desires meats and drinks and the other 
things of which it has need by reason of the bodily nature, they 
placed between the midriff and the boundary of the navel, contriving 
in all this region a sort of manger for the food of the body; and 
there they bound it down like a wild animal which was chained up 
with man, and must be nourished if man was to exist. They appointed 
this lower creation his place here in order that he might be always 
feeding at the manger, and have his dwelling as far as might be from 
the council-chamber, making as little noise and disturbance as 
possible, and permitting the best part to advise quietly for the 
good of the whole. And knowing that this lower principle in man 



would not comprehend reason, and even if attaining to some degree of 
perception would never naturally care for rational notions, but that 
it would be led away by phantoms and visions night and day-to be a 
remedy for this, God combined with it the liver, and placed it in 
the house of the lower nature, contriving that it should be solid 
and smooth, and bright and sweet, and should also have a bitter 
quality, in order that the power of thought, which proceeds from the 
mind, might be reflected as in a mirror which receives likenesses of 
objects and gives back images of them to the sight; and so might 
strike terror into the desires, when, making use of the bitter part of 
the liver, to which it is akin, it comes threatening and invading, and 
diffusing this bitter element swiftly through the whole liver produces 
colours like bile, and contracting every part makes it wrinkled and 
rough; and twisting out of its right place and contorting the lobe and 
closing and shutting up the vessels and gates, causes pain and 
loathing. And the converse happens when some gentle inspiration of the 
understanding pictures images of an opposite character, and allays the 
bile and bitterness by refusing to stir or touch the nature opposed to 
itself, but by making use of the natural sweetness of the liver, 
corrects all things and makes them to be right and smooth and free, 
and renders the portion of the soul which resides about the liver 
happy and joyful, enabling it to pass the night in peace, and to 
practise divination in sleep, inasmuch as it has no share in mind 
and reason. For the authors of our being, remembering the command of 
their father when he bade them create the human race as good as they 
could, that they might correct our inferior parts and make them to 
attain a measure of truth, placed in the liver the seat of divination. 
And herein is a proof that God has given the art of divination not 
to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his 
wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives 
the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, 
or he is demented by some distemper or possession. And he who would 
understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream 
or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would 
determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has 
seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, 
present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits. But, 
while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he 
sees or the words which he utters; the ancient saying is very true, 
that "only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and 
his own affairs." And for this reason it is customary to appoint 
interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration. Some persons call 
them prophets; they are quite unaware that they are only the 
expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called 
prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy. 

Such is the nature of the liver, which is placed as we have 
described in order that it may give prophetic intimations. During 
the life of each individual these intimations are plainer, but after 
his death the liver becomes blind, and delivers oracles too obscure to 
be intelligible. The neighbouring organ [the spleen] is situated on 
the left-hand side, and is constructed with a view of keeping the 
liver bright and pure-like a napkin, always ready prepared and at hand 
to clean the mirror. And hence, when any impurities arise in the 
region of the liver by reason of disorders of the body, the loose 
nature of the spleen, which is composed of a hollow and bloodless 
tissue, receives them all and dears them away, and when filled with 
the unclean matter, swells and festers, but, again, when the body is 
purged, settles down into the same place as before, and is humbled. 

Concerning the soul, as to which part is mortal and which divine, 
and how and why they are separated, and where located, if God 
acknowledges that we have spoken the truth, then, and then only, can 
we be confident; still, we may venture to assert that what has been 
said by us is probable, and will be rendered more probable by 
investigation. Let us assume thus much. 



The creation of the rest of follows next in order, and this we may 
investigate in a similar manner. And it appears to be very meet that 
the body should be framed on the following principles :- 

The authors of our race were aware that we should be intemperate 
in eating and drinking, and take a good deal more than was necessary 
or proper, by reason of gluttony. In order then that disease might not 
quickly destroy us, and lest our mortal race should perish without 
fulfilling its end-intending to provide against this, the gods made 
what is called the lower belly, to be a receptacle for the superfluous 
meat and drink, and formed the convolution of the bowels, so that 
the food might be prevented from passing quickly through and 
compelling the body to require more food, thus producing insatiable 
gluttony, and making the whole race an enemy to philosophy and 
music, and rebellious against the divinest element within us. 

The bones and flesh, and other similar parts of us, were made as 
follows. The first principle of all of them was the generation of 
the marrow. For the bonds of life which unite the soul with the body 
are made fast there, and they are the root and foundation of the human 
race. The marrow itself is created out of other materials: God took 
such of the primary triangles as were straight and smooth, and were 
adapted by their perfection to produce fire and water, and air and 
earth-these, I say, he separated from their kinds, and mingling them 
in due proportions with one another, made the marrow out of them to be 
a universal seed of the whole race of mankind; and in this seed he 
then planted and enclosed the souls, and in the original 
distribution gave to the marrow as many and various forms as the 
different kinds of souls were hereafter to receive. That which, like a 
field, was to receive the divine seed, he made round every way, and 
called that portion of the marrow, brain, intending that, when an 
animal was perfected, the vessel containing this substance should be 
the head; but that which was intended to contain the remaining and 
mortal part of the soul he distributed into figures at once around and 
elongated, and he called them all by the name "marrow"; and to 
these, as to anchors, fastening the bonds of the whole soul, he 
proceeded to fashion around them the entire framework of our body, 
constructing for the marrow, first of all a complete covering of bone. 

Bone was composed by him in the following manner. Having sifted pure 
and smooth earth he kneaded it and wetted it with marrow, and after 
that he put it into fire and then into water, and once more into 
fire and again into water-in this way by frequent transfers from one 
to the other he made it insoluble by either. Out of this he fashioned, 
as in a lathe, a globe made of bone, which he placed around the brain, 
and in this he left a narrow opening; and around the marrow of the 
neck and back he formed vertebrae which he placed under one another 
like pivots, beginning at the head and extending through the whole 
of the trunk. Thus wishing to preserve the entire seed, he enclosed it 
in a stone-like casing, inserting joints, and using in the formation 
of them the power of the other or diverse as an intermediate nature, 
that they might have motion and flexure. Then again, considering 
that the bone would be too brittle and inflexible, and when heated and 
again cooled would soon mortify and destroy the seed within-having 
this in view, he contrived the sinews and the flesh, that so binding 
all the members together by the sinews, which admitted of being 
stretched and relaxed about the vertebrae, he might thus make the body 
capable of flexion and extension, while the flesh would serve as a 
protection against the summer heat and against the winter cold, and 
also against falls, softly and easily yielding to external bodies, 
like articles made of felt; and containing in itself a warm moisture 
which in summer exudes and makes the surface damp, would impart a 
nature coolness to the whole body; and again in winter by the help 
of this internal warmth would form a very tolerable defence against 
the frost which surrounds it and attacks it from without. He who 
modelled us, considering these things, mixed earth with fire and water 
and blended them; and making a ferment of acid and salt, he mingled it 



with them and formed soft and succulent flesh. As for the sinews, he 
made them of a mixture of bone and unfermented flesh, attempered so as 
to be in a mean, and gave them a yellow colour; wherefore the sinews 
have a firmer and more glutinous nature than flesh, but a softer and 
moister nature than the bones. With these God covered the bones and 
marrow, binding them together by sinews, and then enshrouded them 
all in an upper covering of flesh. The more living and sensitive of 
the bones he enclosed in the thinnest film of flesh, and those which 
had the least life within them in the thickest and most solid flesh. 
So again on the joints of the bones, where reason indicated that no 
more was required, he placed only a thin covering of flesh, that it 
might not interfere with the flexion of our bodies and make them 
unwieldy because difficult to move; and also that it might not, by 
being crowded and pressed and matted together, destroy sensation by 
reason of its hardness, and impair the memory and dull the edge of 
intelligence. Wherefore also the thighs and the shanks and the hips, 
and the bones of the arms and the forearms, and other parts which have 
no joints, and the inner bones, which on account of the rarity of 
the soul in the marrow are destitute of reason-all these are 
abundantly provided with flesh; but such as have mind in them are in 
general less fleshy, except where the creator has made some part 
solely of flesh in order to give sensation-as, for example, the 
tongue. But commonly this is not the case. For the nature which 
comes into being and grows up in us by a law of necessity, does not 
admit of the combination of solid bone and much flesh with acute 
perceptions. More than any other part the framework of the head 
would have had them, if they could have co-existed, and the human 
race, having a strong and fleshy and sinewy head, would have had a 
life twice or many times as long as it now has, and also more 
healthy and free from pain. 

But our creators, considering whether they should make a 
longer-lived race which was worse, or a shorter-lived race which was 
better, came to the conclusion that every one ought to prefer a 
shorter span of life, which was better, to a longer one, which was 
worse; and therefore they covered the head with thin bone, but not 
with flesh and sinews, since it had no joints; and thus the head was 
added, having more wisdom and sensation than the rest of the body, but 
also being in every man far weaker. For these reasons and after this 
manner God placed the sinews at the extremity of the head, in a circle 
round the neck, and glued them together by the principle of likeness 
and fastened the extremities of the jawbones to them below the face, 
and the other sinews he dispersed throughout the body, fastening 
limb to limb. The framers of us framed the mouth, as now arranged, 
having teeth and tongue and lips, with a view to the necessary and the 
good, contriving the way in for necessary purposes, the way out for 
the best purposes; for that is necessary which enters in and gives 
food to the body; but the river of speech, which flows out of a man 
and ministers to the intelligence, is the fairest and noblest of all 
streams. Still the head could neither be left a bare frame of bones, 
on account of the extremes of heat and cold in the different 
seasons, nor yet be allowed to be wholly covered, and so become dull 
and senseless by reason of an overgrowth of flesh. The fleshy nature 
was not therefore wholly dried up, but a large sort of peel was parted 
off and remained over, which is now called the skin. This met and grew 
by the help of the cerebral moisture, and became the circular 
envelopment of the head. And the moisture, rising up under the 
sutures, watered and closed in the skin upon the crown, forming a sort 
of knot. The diversity of the sutures was caused by the power of the 
courses of the soul and of the food, and the more these struggled 
against one another the more numerous they became, and fewer if the 
struggle were less violent. This skin the divine power pierced all 
round with fire, and out of the punctures which were thus made the 
moisture issued forth, and the liquid and heat which was pure came 
away, and a mixed part which was composed of the same material as 



the skin, and had a fineness equal to the punctures, was borne up by 
its own impulse and extended far outside the head, but being too 
slow to escape, was thrust back by the external air, and rolled up 
underneath the skin, where it took root. Thus the hair sprang up in 
the skin, being akin to it because it is like threads of leather, 
but rendered harder and closer through the pressure of the cold, by 
which each hair, while in process of separation from the skin, is 
compressed and cooled. Wherefore the creator formed the head hairy, 
making use of the causes which I have mentioned, and reflecting also 
that instead of flesh the brain needed the hair to be a light covering 
or guard, which would give shade in summer and shelter in winter, 
and at the same time would not impede our quickness of perception. 
From the combination of sinew, skin, and bone, in the structure of the 
finger, there arises a triple compound, which, when dried up, takes 
the form of one hard skin partaking of all three natures, and was 
fabricated by these second causes, but designed by mind which is the 
principal cause with an eye to the future. For our creators well 
knew that women and other animals would some day be framed out of men, 
and they further knew that many animals would require the use of nails 
for many purposes; wherefore they fashioned in men at their first 
creation the rudiments of nails. For this purpose and for these 
reasons they caused skin, hair, and nails to grow at the extremities 
of the limbs. And now that all the parts and members of the mortal 
animal had come together, since its life of necessity consisted of 
fire and breath, and it therefore wasted away by dissolution and 
depletion, the gods contrived the following remedy: They mingled a 
nature akin to that of man with other forms and perceptions, and 
thus created another kind of animal. These are the trees and plants 
and seeds which have been improved by cultivation and are now 
domesticated among us; anciently there were only the will kinds, which 
are older than the cultivated. For everything that partakes of life 
may be truly called a living being, and the animal of which we are now 
speaking partakes of the third kind of soul, which is said to be 
seated between the midriff and the navel, having no part in opinion or 
reason or mind, but only in feelings of pleasure and pain and the 
desires which accompany them. For this nature is always in a passive 
state, revolving in and about itself, repelling the motion from 
without and using its own, and accordingly is not endowed by nature 
with the power of observing or reflecting on its own concerns. 
Wherefore it lives and does not differ from a living being, but is 
fixed and rooted in the same spot, having no power of self-motion. 

Now after the superior powers had created all these natures to be 
food for us who are of the inferior nature, they cut various 
channels through the body as through a garden, that it might be 
watered as from a running stream. In the first place, they cut two 
hidden channels or veins down the back where the skin and the flesh 
join, which answered severally to the right and left side of the body. 
These they let down along the backbone, so as to have the marrow of 
generation between them, where it was most likely to flourish, and 
in order that the stream coming down from above might flow freely to 
the other parts, and equalise the irrigation. In the next place, 
they divided the veins about the head, and interlacing them, they sent 
them in opposite directions; those coming from the right side they 
sent to the left of the body, and those from the left they diverted 
towards the right, so that they and the skin might together form a 
bond which should fasten the head to the body, since the crown of 
the head was not encircled by sinews; and also in order that the 
sensations from both sides might be distributed over the whole body. 
And next, they ordered the water-courses of the body in a manner which 
I will describe, and which will be more easily understood if we 
begin by admitting that all things which have lesser parts retain 
the greater, but the greater cannot retain the lesser. Now of all 
natures fire has the smallest parts, and therefore penetrates 
through earth and water and air and their compounds, nor can 



anything hold it. And a similar principle applies to the human 
belly; for when meats and drinks enter it, it holds them, but it 
cannot hold air and fire, because the particles of which they 
consist are smaller than its own structure. 

These elements, therefore, God employed for the sake of distributing 
moisture from the belly into the veins, weaving together network of 
fire and air like a weel, having at the entrance two lesser weels; 
further he constructed one of these with two openings, and from the 
lesser weels he extended cords reaching all round to the extremities 
of the network. All the interior of the net he made of fire, but the 
lesser weels and their cavity, of air. The network he took and 
spread over the newly-formed animal in the following manner: -He let 
the lesser weels pass into the mouth; there were two of them, and 
one he let down by the air-pipes into the lungs, the other by the side 
of the air-pipes into the belly. The former he divided into two 
branches, both of which he made to meet at the channels of the nose, 
so that when the way through the mouth did not act, the streams of the 
mouth as well were replenished through the nose. With the other cavity 
(i.e. of the greater weel) he enveloped the hollow parts of the 
body, and at one time he made all this to flow into the lesser 
weels, quite gently, for they are composed of air, and at another time 
he caused the lesser weels to flow back again; and the net he made 
to find a way in and out through the pores of the body, and the rays 
of fire which are bound fast within followed the passage of the air 
either way, never at any time ceasing so long as the mortal being 
holds together. This process, as we affirm, the name-giver named 
inspiration and expiration. And all this movement, active as well as 
passive, takes place in order that the body, being watered and cooled, 
may receive nourishment and life; for when the respiration is going in 
and out, and the fire, which is fast bound within, follows it, and 
ever and anon moving to and fro, enters through the belly and 
reaches the meat and drink, it dissolves them, and dividing them 
into small portions and guiding them through the passages where it 
goes, pumps them as from a fountain into the channels of the veins, 
and makes the stream of the veins flow through the body as through a 
conduit . 

Let us once more consider the phenomena of respiration, and 
enquire into the causes which have made it what it is. They are as 
follows : -Seeing that there is no such thing as a vacuum into which any 
of those things which are moved can enter, and the breath is carried 
from us into the external air, the next point is, as will be dear to 
every one, that it does not go into a vacant space, but pushes its 
neighbour out of its place, and that which is thrust out in turn 
drives out its neighbour; and in this everything of necessity at 
last comes round to that place from whence the breath came forth, 
and enters in there, and following the breath, fills up the vacant 
space; and this goes on like the rotation of a wheel, because there 
can be no such thing as a vacuum. Wherefore also the breast and the 
lungs, when they emit the breath, are replenished by the air which 
surrounds the body and which enters in through the pores of the 
flesh and is driven round in a circle; and again, the air which is 
sent away and passes out through the body forces the breath inwards 
through the passage of the mouth and the nostrils. Now the origin of 
this movement may be supposed to be as follows. In the interior of 
every animal the hottest part is that which is around the blood and 
veins; it is in a manner on internal fountain of fire, which we 
compare to the network of a creel, being woven all of fire and 
extended through the centre of the body, while the-outer parts are 
composed of air. Now we must admit that heat naturally proceeds 
outward to its own place and to its kindred element; and as there 
are two exits for the heat, the out through the body, and the other 
through the mouth and nostrils, when it moves towards the one, it 
drives round the air at the other, and that which is driven round 
falls into the fire and becomes warm, and that which goes forth is 



cooled. But when the heat changes its place, and the particles at 
the other exit grow warmer, the hotter air inclining in that direction 
and carried towards its native element, fire, pushes round the air 
at the other; and this being affected in the same way and 
communicating the same impulse, a circular motion swaying to and 
from is produced by the double process, which we call inspiration 
and expiration. 

The phenomena of medical cupping-glasses and of the swallowing of 
drink and of the projection of bodies, whether discharged in the air 
or bowled along the ground, are to be investigated on a similar 
principle; and swift and slow sounds, which appear to be high and low, 
and are sometimes discordant on account of their inequality, and 
then again harmonical on account of the equality of the motion which 
they excite in us. For when the motions of the antecedent swifter 
sounds begin to pause and the two are equalised, the slower sounds 
overtake the swifter and then propel them. When they overtake them 
they do not intrude a new and discordant motion, but introduce the 
beginnings of a slower, which answers to the swifter as it dies 
away, thus producing a single mixed expression out of high and low, 
whence arises a pleasure which even the unwise feel, and which to 
the wise becomes a higher sort of delight, being an imitation of 
divine harmony in mortal motions. Moreover, as to the flowing of 
water, the fall of the thunderbolt, and the marvels that are 
observed about the attraction of amber and the Heraclean stones, -in 
none of these cases is there any attraction; but he who investigates 
rightly, will find that such wonderful phenomena are attributable to 
the combination of certain conditions-the non-existence of a vacuum, 
the fact that objects push one another round, and that they change 
places, passing severally into their proper positions as they are 
divided or combined 

Such as we have seen, is the nature and such are the causes of 
respiration-the subject in which this discussion originated. For the 
fire cuts the food and following the breath surges up within, fire and 
breath rising together and filling the veins by drawing up out of 
the belly and pouring into them the cut portions of the food; and so 
the streams of food are kept flowing through the whole body in all 
animals. And fresh cuttings from kindred substances, whether the 
fruits of the earth or herb of the field, which God planted to be 
our daily food, acquire all sorts of colours by their inter-mixture; 
but red is the most pervading of them, being created by the cutting 
action of fire and by the impression which it makes on a moist 
substance; and hence the liquid which circulates in the body has a 
colour such as we have described. The liquid itself we call blood, 
which nourishes the flesh and the whole body, whence all parts are 
watered and empty places filled. 

Now the process of repletion and evacuation is effected after the 
manner of the universal motion by which all kindred substances are 
drawn towards one another. For the external elements which surround us 
are always causing us to consume away, and distributing and sending 
off like to like; the particles of blood, too, which are divided and 
contained within the frame of the animal as in a sort of heaven, are 
compelled to imitate the motion of the universe. Each, therefore, of 
the divided parts within us, being carried to its kindred nature, 
replenishes the void. When more is taken away than flows in, then we 
decay, and when less, we grow and increase. 

The frame of the entire creature when young has the triangles of 
each kind new, and may be compared to the keel of a vessel which is 
just off the stocks; they are locked firmly together and yet the whole 
mass is soft and delicate, being freshly formed of marrow and nurtured 
on milk. Now when the triangles out of which meats and drinks are 
composed come in from without, and are comprehended in the body, being 
older and weaker than the triangles already there, the frame of the 
body gets the better of them and its newer triangles cut them up, 
and so the animal grows great, being nourished by a multitude of 



similar particles. But when the roots of the triangles are loosened by 
having undergone many conflicts with many things in the course of 
time, they are no longer able to cut or assimilate the food which 
enters, but are themselves easily divided by the bodies which come 
in from without. In this way every animal is overcome and decays, 
and this affection is called old age. And at last, when the bonds by 
which the triangles of the marrow are united no longer hold, and are 
parted by the strain of existence, they in turn loosen the bonds of 
the soul, and she, obtaining a natural release, flies away with joy. 
For that which takes place according to nature is pleasant, but that 
which is contrary to nature is painful. And thus death, if caused by 
disease or produced by wounds, is painful and violent; but that sort 
of death which comes with old age and fulfils the debt of nature is 
the easiest of deaths, and is accompanied with pleasure rather than 
with pain . 

Now every one can see whence diseases arise. There are four 
natures out of which the body is compacted, earth and fire and water 
and air, and the unnatural excess or defect of these, or the change of 
any of them from its own natural place into another, or-since there 
are more kinds than one of fire and of the other elements-the 
assumption by any of these of a wrong kind, or any similar 
irregularity, produces disorders and diseases; for when any of them is 
produced or changed in a manner contrary to nature, the parts which 
were previously cool grow warm, and those which were dry become moist, 
and the light become heavy, and the heavy light; all sorts of 
changes occur. For, as we affirm, a thing can only remain the same 
with itself, whole and sound, when the same is added to it, or 
subtracted from it, in the same respect and in the same manner and 
in due proportion; and whatever comes or goes away in violation of 
these laws causes all manner of changes and infinite diseases and 
corruptions. Now there is a second class of structures which are 
also natural, and this affords a second opportunity of observing 
diseases to him who would understand them. For whereas marrow and bone 
and flesh and sinews are composed of the four elements, and the blood, 
though after another manner, is likewise formed out of them, most 
diseases originate in the way which I have described; but the worst of 
all owe their severity to the fact that the generation of these 
substances stances in a wrong order; they are then destroyed. For 
the natural order is that the flesh and sinews should be made of 
blood, the sinews out of the fibres to which they are akin, and the 
flesh out of the dots which are formed when the fibres are 
separated. And the glutinous and rich matter which comes away from the 
sinews and the flesh, not only glues the flesh to the bones, but 
nourishes and imparts growth to the bone which surrounds the marrow; 
and by reason of the solidity of the bones, that which filters through 
consists of the purest and smoothest and oiliest sort of triangles, 
dropping like dew from the bones and watering the marrow. 

Now when each process takes place in this order, health commonly 
results; when in the opposite order, disease. For when the flesh 
becomes decomposed and sends back the wasting substance into the 
veins, then an over-supply of blood of diverse kinds, mingling with 
air in the veins, having variegated colours and bitter properties, 
as well as acid and saline qualities, contains all sorts of bile and 
serum and phlegm. For all things go the wrong way, and having become 
corrupted, first they taint the blood itself, and then ceasing to give 
nourishment the body they are carried along the veins in all 
directions, no longer preserving the order of their natural courses, 
but at war with themselves, because they receive no good from one 
another, and are hostile to the abiding constitution of the body, 
which they corrupt and dissolve. The oldest part of the flesh which is 
corrupted, being hard to decompose, from long burning grows black, and 
from being everywhere corroded becomes bitter, and is injurious to 
every part of the body which is still uncorrupted. Sometimes, when the 
bitter element is refined away, the black part assumes an acidity 



which takes the place of the bitterness; at other times the bitterness 
being tinged with blood has a redder colour; and this, when mixed with 
black, takes the hue of grass; and again, an auburn colour mingles 
with the bitter matter when new flesh is decomposed by the fire 
which surrounds the internal flame-to all which symptoms some 
physician perhaps, or rather some philosopher, who had the power of 
seeing in many dissimilar things one nature deserving of a name, has 
assigned the common name of bile. But the other kinds of bile are 
variously distinguished by their colours. As for serum, that sort 
which is the watery part of blood is innocent, but that which is a 
secretion of black and acid bile is malignant when mingled by the 
power of heat with any salt substance, and is then called acid phlegm. 

Again, the substance which is formed by the liquefaction of new and 
tender flesh when air is present, if inflated and encased in liquid so 
as to form bubbles, which separately are invisible owing to their 
small size, but when collected are of a bulk which is visible, and 
have a white colour arising out of the generation of foam-all this 
decomposition of tender flesh when inter-mingled with air is termed by 
us white phlegm. And the whey or sediment of newly-formed phlegm is 
sweat and tears, and includes the various daily discharges by which 
the body is purified. Now all these become causes of disease when 
the blood is not replenished in a natural manner by food and drink but 
gains bulk from opposite sources in violation of the laws of nature. 
When the several parts of the flesh are separated by disease, if the 
foundation remains, the power of the disorder is only half as great, 
and there is still a prospect of an easy recovery; but when that which 
binds the flesh to the bones is diseased, and no longer being 
separated from the muscles and sinews, ceases to give nourishment to 
the bone and to unite flesh and bone, and from being oily and smooth 
and glutinous becomes rough and salt and dry, owing to bad regimen, 
then all the substance thus corrupted crumbles away under the flesh 
and the sinews, and separates from the bone, and the fleshy parts fall 
away from their foundation and leave the sinews bare and full of 
brine, and the flesh again gets into the circulation of the blood 
and makes the previously-mentioned disorders still greater. And if 
these bodily affections be severe, still worse are the prior 
disorders; as when the bone itself, by reason of the density of the 
flesh, does not obtain sufficient air, but becomes mouldy and hot 
and gangrened and receives no nutriment, and the natural process is 
inverted, and the bone crumbling passes into the food, and the food 
into the flesh, and the flesh again falling into the blood makes all 
maladies that may occur more virulent than those already mentioned. 
But the worst case of all is when the marrow is diseased, either 
from excess or defect; and this is the cause of the very greatest 
and most fatal disorders, in which the whole course of the body is 
reversed . 

There is a third class of diseases which may be conceived of as 
arising in three ways; for they are produced sometimes by wind, and 
sometimes by phlegm, and sometimes by bile. When the lung, which is 
the dispenser of the air to the body, is obstructed by rheums and 
its passages are not free, some of them not acting, while through 
others too much air enters, then the parts which are unrefreshed by 
air corrode, while in other parts the excess of air forcing its way 
through the veins distorts them and decomposing the body is enclosed 
in the midst of it and occupies the midriff thus numberless painful 
diseases are produced, accompanied by copious sweats. And oftentimes 
when the flesh is dissolved in the body, wind, generated within and 
unable to escape, is the source of quite as much pain as the air 
coming in from without; but the greatest pain is felt when the wind 
gets about the sinews and the veins of the shoulders, and swells 
them up, so twists back the great tendons and the sinews which are 
connected with them. These disorders are called tetanus and 
opisthotonus, by reason of the tension which accompanies them. The 
cure of them is difficult; relief is in most cases given by fever 



supervening. The white phlegm, though dangerous when detained within 
by reason of the air-bubbles, yet if it can communicate with the 
outside air, is less severe, and only discolours the body, 
generating leprous eruptions and similar diseases. When it is 
mingled with black bile and dispersed about the courses of the head, 
which are the divinest part of us, the attack if coming on in sleep, 
is not so severe; but when assailing those who are awake it is hard to 
be got rid of, and being an affection of a sacred part, is most justly 
called sacred. An acid and salt phlegm, again, is the source of all 
those diseases which take the form of catarrh, but they have many 
names because the places into which they flow are manifold. 

Inflammations of the body come from burnings and inflamings, and all 
of them originate in bile. When bile finds a means of discharge, it 
boils up and sends forth all sorts of tumours; but when imprisoned 
within, it generates many inflammatory diseases, above all when 
mingled with pure blood; since it then displaces the fibres which 
are scattered about in the blood and are designed to maintain the 
balance of rare and dense, in order that the blood may not be so 
liquefied by heat as to exude from the pores of the body, nor again 
become too dense and thus find a difficulty in circulating through the 
veins. The fibres are so constituted as to maintain this balance; 
and if any one brings them all together when the blood is dead and 
in process of cooling, then the blood which remains becomes fluid, but 
if they are left alone, they soon congeal by reason of the surrounding 
cold. The fibres having this power over the blood, bile, which is only 
stale blood, and which from being flesh is dissolved again into blood, 
at the first influx coming in little by little, hot and liquid, is 
congealed by the power of the fibres; and so congealing and made to 
cool, it produces internal cold and shuddering. When it enters with 
more of a flood and overcomes the fibres by its heat, and boiling up 
throws them into disorder, if it have power enough to maintain its 
supremacy, it penetrates the marrow and burns up what may be termed 
the cables of the soul, and sets her free; but when there is not so 
much of it, and the body though wasted still holds out, the bile is 
itself mastered, and is either utterly banished, or is thrust 
through the veins into the lower or upper-belly, and is driven out 
of the body like an exile from a state in which there has been civil 
war; whence arise diarrhoeas and dysenteries, and all such 
disorders. When the constitution is disordered by excess of fire, 
continuous heat and fever are the result; when excess of air is the 
cause, then the fever is quotidian; when of water, which is a more 
sluggish element than either fire or air, then the fever is a tertian; 
when of earth, which is the most sluggish of the four, and is only 
purged away in a four-fold period, the result is a quartan fever, 
which can with difficulty be shaken off. 

Such is the manner in which diseases of the body arise; the 
disorders of the soul, which depend upon the body, originate as 
follows. We must acknowledge disease of the mind to be a want of 
intelligence; and of this there are two kinds; to wit, madness and 
ignorance. In whatever state a man experiences either of them, that 
state may be called disease; and excessive pains and pleasures are 
justly to be regarded as the greatest diseases to which the soul is 
liable. For a man who is in great joy or in great pain, in his 
unseasonable eagerness to attain the one and to avoid the other, is 
not able to see or to hear anything rightly; but he is mad, and is 
at the time utterly incapable of any participation in reason. He who 
has the seed about the spinal marrow too plentiful and overflowing, 
like a tree overladen with fruit, has many throes, and also obtains 
many pleasures in his desires and their offspring, and is for the most 
part of his life deranged, because his pleasures and pains are so very 
great; his soul is rendered foolish and disordered by his body; yet he 
is regarded not as one diseased, but as one who is voluntarily bad, 
which is a mistake. The truth is that the intemperance of love is a 
disease of the soul due chiefly to the moisture and fluidity which 



is produced in one of the elements by the loose consistency of the 
bones. And in general, all that which is termed the incontinence of 
pleasure and is deemed a reproach under the idea that the wicked 
voluntarily do wrong is not justly a matter for reproach. For no man 
is voluntarily bad; but the bad become bad by reason of an ill 
disposition of the body and bad education, things which are hateful to 
every man and happen to him against his will. And in the case of 
pain too in like manner the soul suffers much evil from the body. 
For where the acid and briny phlegm and other bitter and bilious 
humours wander about in the body, and find no exit or escape, but 
are pent up within and mingle their own vapours with the motions of 
the soul, and are blended, with them, they produce all sorts of 
diseases, more or fewer, and in every degree of intensity; and being 
carried to the three places of the soul, whichever they may 
severally assail, they create infinite varieties of ill-temper and 
melancholy, of rashness and cowardice, and also of f orgetfulness and 
stupidity. Further, when to this evil constitution of body evil 
forms of government are added and evil discourses are uttered in 
private as well as in public, and no sort of instruction is given in 
youth to cure these evils, then all of us who are bad become bad 
from two causes which are entirely beyond our control. In such cases 
the planters are to blame rather than the plants, the educators rather 
than the educated. But however that may be, we should endeavour as far 
as we can by education, and studies, and learning, to avoid vice and 
attain virtue; this, however, is part of another subject. 

There is a corresponding enquiry concerning the mode of treatment by 
which the mind and the body are to be preserved, about which it is 
meet and right that I should say a word in turn; for it is more our 
duty to speak of the good than of the evil. Everything that is good is 
fair, and the animal fair is not without proportion, and the animal 
which is to be fair must have due proportion. Now we perceive lesser 
symmetries or proportions and reason about them, but of the highest 
and greatest we take no heed; for there is no proportion or 
disproportion more productive of health and disease, and virtue and 
vice, than that between soul and body. This however we do not 
perceive, nor do we reflect that when a weak or small frame is the 
vehicle of a great and mighty soul, or conversely, when a little 
soul is encased in a large body, then the whole animal is not fair, 
for it lacks the most important of all symmetries; but the due 
proportion of mind and body is the fairest and loveliest of all sights 
to him who has the seeing eye. Just as a body which has a leg too 
long, or which is unsymmetrical in some other respect, is an 
unpleasant sight, and also, when doing its share of work, is much 
distressed and makes convulsive efforts, and often stumbles through 
awkwardness, and is the cause of infinite evil to its own self-in like 
manner we should conceive of the double nature which we call the 
living being; and when in this compound there is an impassioned soul 
more powerful than the body, that soul, I say, convulses and fills 
with disorders the whole inner nature of man; and when eager in the 
pursuit of some sort of learning or study, causes wasting; or again, 
when teaching or disputing in private or in public, and strifes and 
controversies arise, inflames and dissolves the composite frame of man 
and introduces rheums; and the nature of this phenomenon is not 
understood by most professors of medicine, who ascribe it to the 
opposite of the real cause. And once more, when body large and too 
strong for the soul is united to a small and weak intelligence, then 
inasmuch as there are two desires natural to man, -one of food for 
the sake of the body, and one of wisdom for the sake of the diviner 
part of us-then, I say, the motions of the stronger, getting the 
better and increasing their own power, but making the soul dull, and 
stupid, and forgetful, engender ignorance, which is the greatest of 
diseases. There is one protection against both kinds of 
disproportion : -that we should not move the body without the soul or 
the soul without the body, and thus they will be on their guard 



against each other, and be healthy and well balanced. And therefore 
the mathematician or any one else whose thoughts are much absorbed 
in some intellectual pursuit, must allow his body also to have due 
exercise, and practise gymnastic; and he who is careful to fashion the 
body, should in turn impart to the soul its proper motions, and should 
cultivate music and all philosophy, if he would deserve to be called 
truly fair and truly good. And the separate parts should be treated in 
the same manner, in imitation of the pattern of the universe; for as 
the body is heated and also cooled within by the elements which 
enter into it, and is again dried up and moistened by external things, 
and experiences these and the like affections from both kinds of 
motions, the result is that the body if given up to motion when in a 
state of quiescence is overmastered and perishes; but if any one, in 
imitation of that which we call the foster-mother and nurse of the 
universe, will not allow the body ever to be inactive, but is always 
producing motions and agitations through its whole extent, which 
form the natural defence against other motions both internal and 
external, and by moderate exercise reduces to order according to their 
affinities the particles and affections which are wandering about 
the body, as we have already said when speaking of the universe, he 
will not allow enemy placed by the side of enemy to stir up wars and 
disorders in the body, but he will place friend by the side of friend, 
so as to create health. 

Now of all motions that is the best which is produced in a thing 
by itself, for it is most akin to the motion of thought and of the 
universe; but that motion which is caused by others is not so good, 
and worst of all is that which moves the body, when at rest, in 
parts only and by some external agency. Wherefore of all modes of 
purifying and reuniting the body the best is gymnastic; the next 
best is a surging motion, as in sailing or any other mode of 
conveyance which is not fatiguing; the third sort of motion may be 
of use in a case of extreme necessity, but in any other will be 
adopted by no man of sense: I mean the purgative treatment of 
physicians; for diseases unless they are very dangerous should not 
be irritated by medicines, since every form of disease is in a 
manner akin to the living being, whose complex frame has an 
appointed term of life. For not the whole race only, but each 
individual-barring inevitable accidents-comes into the world having 
a fixed span, and the triangles in us are originally framed with power 
to last for a certain time, beyond which no man prolong his life. 
And this holds also of the constitution of diseases; if any one 
regardless of the appointed time tries to subdue them by medicine, 
he only aggravates and multiplies them. Wherefore we ought always to 
manage them by regimen, as far as a man can spare the time, and not 
provoke a disagreeable enemy by medicines. 

Enough of the composite animal, and of the body which is a part of 
him, and of the manner in which a man may train and be trained by 
himself so as to live most according to reason: and we must above 
and before all provide that the element which is to train him shall be 
the fairest and best adapted to that purpose. A minute discussion of 
this subject would be a serious task; but if, as before, I am to 
give only an outline, the subject may not unfitly be summed up as 
follows . 

I have often remarked that there are three kinds of soul located 
within us, having each of them motions, and I must now repeat in the 
fewest words possible, that one part, if remaining inactive and 
ceasing from its natural motion, must necessarily become very weak, 
but that which is trained and exercised, very strong. Wherefore we 
should take care that the movements of the different parts of the soul 
should be in due proportion. 

And we should consider that God gave the sovereign part of the human 
soul to be the divinity of each one, being that part which, as we say, 
dwells at the top of the body, inasmuch as we are a plant not of an 
earthly but of a heavenly growth, raises us from earth to our 



kindred who are in heaven. And in this we say truly; for the divine 
power suspended the head and root of us from that place where the 
generation of the soul first began, and thus made the whole body 
upright. When a man is always occupied with the cravings of desire and 
ambition, and is eagerly striving to satisfy them, all his thoughts 
must be mortal, and, as far as it is possible altogether to become 
such, he must be mortal every whit, because he has cherished his 
mortal part. But he who has been earnest in the love of knowledge 
and of true wisdom, and has exercised his intellect more than any 
other part of him, must have thoughts immortal and divine, if he 
attain truth, and in so far as human nature is capable of sharing in 
immortality, he must altogether be immortal; and since he is ever 
cherishing the divine power, and has the divinity within him in 
perfect order, he will be perfectly happy. Now there is only one way 
of taking care of things, and this is to give to each the food and 
motion which are natural to it. And the motions which are naturally 
akin to the divine principle within us are the thoughts and 
revolutions of the universe. These each man should follow, and correct 
the courses of the head which were corrupted at our birth, and by 
learning the harmonies and revolutions of the universe, should 
assimilate the thinking being to the thought, renewing his original 
nature, and having assimilated them should attain to that perfect life 
which the gods have set before mankind, both for the present and the 
future . 

Thus our original design of discoursing about the universe down to 
the creation of man is nearly completed. A brief mention may be made 
of the generation of other animals, so far as the subject admits of 
brevity; in this manner our argument will best attain a due 
proportion. On the subject of animals, then, the following remarks may 
be offered. Of the men who came into the world, those who were cowards 
or led unrighteous lives may with reason be supposed to have changed 
into the nature of women in the second generation. And this was the 
reason why at that time the gods created in us the desire of sexual 
intercourse, contriving in man one animated substance, and in woman 
another, which they formed respectively in the following manner. The 
outlet for drink by which liquids pass through the lung under the 
kidneys and into the bladder, which receives then by the pressure of 
the air emits them, was so fashioned by them as to penetrate also into 
the body of the marrow, which passes from the head along the neck 
and through the back, and which in the preceding discourse we have 
named the seed. And the seed having life, and becoming endowed with 
respiration, produces in that part in which it respires a lively 
desire of emission, and thus creates in us the love of procreation. 
Wherefore also in men the organ of generation becoming rebellious 
and masterful, like an animal disobedient to reason, and maddened with 
the sting of lust, seeks to gain absolute sway; and the same is the 
case with the so-called womb or matrix of women; the animal within 
them is desirous of procreating children, and when remaining 
unfruitful long beyond its proper time, gets discontented and angry, 
and wandering in every direction through the body, closes up the 
passages of the breath, and, by obstructing respiration, drives them 
to extremity, causing all varieties of disease, until at length the 
desire and love of the man and the woman, bringing them together and 
as it were plucking the fruit from the tree, sow in the womb, as in 
a field, animals unseen by reason of their smallness and without form; 
these again are separated and matured within; they are then finally 
brought out into the light, and thus the generation of animals is 
completed. 

Thus were created women and the female sex in general . But the 
race of birds was created out of innocent light-minded men, who, 
although their minds were directed toward heaven, imagined, in their 
simplicity, that the clearest demonstration of the things above was to 
be obtained by sight; these were remodelled and transformed into 
birds, and they grew feathers instead of hair. The race of wild 



pedestrian animals, again, came from those who had no philosophy in 
any of their thoughts, and never considered at all about the nature of 
the heavens, because they had ceased to use the courses of the head, 
but followed the guidance of those parts of the soul which are in 
the breast. In consequence of these habits of theirs they had their 
front-legs and their heads resting upon the earth to which they were 
drawn by natural affinity; and the crowns of their heads were 
elongated and of all sorts of shapes, into which the courses of the 
soul were crushed by reason of disuse. And this was the reason why 
they were created quadrupeds and polypods : God gave the more senseless 
of them the more support that they might be more attracted to the 
earth. And the most foolish of them, who trail their bodies entirely 
upon the ground and have no longer any need of feet, he made without 
feet to crawl upon the earth. The fourth class were the inhabitants of 
the water: these were made out of the most entirely senseless and 
ignorant of all, whom the transformers did not think any longer worthy 
of pure respiration, because they possessed a soul which was made 
impure by all sorts of transgression; and instead of the subtle and 
pure medium of air, they gave them the deep and muddy sea to be 
their element of respiration; and hence arose the race of fishes and 
oysters, and other aquatic animals, which have received the most 
remote habitations as a punishment of their outlandish ignorance. 
These are the laws by which animals pass into one another, now, as 
ever, changing as they lose or gain wisdom and folly. 

We may now say that our discourse about the nature of the universe 
has an end. The world has received animals, mortal and immortal, and 
is fulfilled with them, and has become a visible animal containing the 
visible-the sensible God who is the image of the intellectual, the 
greatest, best, fairest, most perfect-the one only begotten heaven. 



-THE END-